Gary White @garywhite13
LAKELAND — Nearly a year has passed since Floridians voted to add marijuana to the list of medications the state’s doctors are allowed to use.
Though the result was decisive — 71 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment — the change was not sudden. As required by Amendment 2, the Florida Department of Health created a system of guidelines, including a requirement for doctors to complete training before they could recommend medical cannabis to patients.
More than 1,000 doctors are qualified to treat patients with marijuana, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The list includes 15 doctors based in Polk County.
That equates to one qualified doctor per 43,333 Polk County residents. Statewide, the numbers translate to roughly one trained doctor per 20,500 people.
Renee Petro, a co-founder of CannaMoms, a group of mothers of children with complex medical problems, had harsh words in assessing the situation in Polk County.
“I feel like Polk County is very backward, and I’ve heard doctors are really very worried about jumping on board,” she said. “So a lot of these patients have to travel to Clearwater. … A lot of these patients are driving to multiple locations.”
While the number of Polk County doctors qualified to treat with marijuana is slowly rising, the county’s largest medical centers seem to be opting out. Four of the most prominent clinics appear to have no doctors on their staffs qualified to recommend medical marijuana.
Watson Clinic, the county’s largest network with 224 doctors in multiple locations, has no physicians with the state certification, spokeswoman Jenny Baker said. None of Watson Clinic’s doctors has plans to pursue the training, Baker said, though she didn’t say the clinic has a policy forbidding them from doing