Folio Weed: The Doctor Is IN

Words by Shelton Hull

One of the main questions asked by readers of this column is whether or not I, the author of the column, have a medical marijuana card. The answer to that remains “no,” but why? Well, it’s just general laziness. Having grown up in and around the black market, old habits die hard. Also, I balked at the fee, which I was only going to pay if it was a business expense, and it’s all way more hassle, way more paperwork than I can tolerate. So no, not yet.


I have, however, put myself into the system, and it’s all my friend’s fault. She got her medical card last year, at my recommendation, and she took to the gimmick like a duck to water. The product has shown real, positive results for her, and thousands of other senior citizens (though she might hit me with a shoe if I called her that) in dealing with things like arthritis, appetite and neuropathy. But her card expired recently, and since she needed to renew her license, I figured I’d tag along with her, and take a look at how the process works, from the inside.


First step was finding her a doctor to renew her prescription, and I knew the perfect guy: A longtime friend of “Folio” who runs his own medical marijuana clinic not far from where I grew up. I’ve known him for about five years: Tracy Rigdon (creator of “The Contrast Project,” one of several podcasts that I contribute to) introduced us at Lemonstreet Brewing Co. at one of those Find Your “Folio” happy hour parties late in the 1.0 era. The doctor is currently completing a master’s program at the University of Maryland, which will have him certified as an expert in cannabis within the next few months, although he already is, for all intents and purposes.The doctor has proven invaluable to this column on several occasions, so I booked appointments with him for a sunny Saturday afternoon on the near Northside. 


Compassionate Alternative Care is located in a little office park on Blanche Street, not far from Beaver Street and Myrtle Avenue. The Navy vet was one of the first doctors certified to offer this service out here and in Duval County in general. There are currently exactly 2,702 doctors licensed to prescribe medical marijuana in Florida, and the doctor is one of about 100 or so listed in Northeast Florida. Each of them must pay $250 to take the two-hour Florida Physician Medical Marijuana Course provided by the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, whose annual conventions are probably lit. But as the late great Madeleine Albright said, incorrectly, about something else, we think the cost is worth it. 


After getting things lined up with your doctor, you can mail your application, along with the $75 fee, to the OMMU (Office of Medical Marijuana Use) in Tampa, or just apply and pay online. The physical card will arrive within four weeks or so, but once you’re approved, you’re able to make purchases at any dispensary, even before the card arrives by showing your valid Florida driver license. Then it’s just a matter of finding a dispensary (the WeedMaps app lists about 30 within driving range of Downtown) and almost all have some types of sales or discounts going at all times. (Note that Florida does not accept medical marijuana cards issued by other states. Also note that your card does not allow you to carry any products past state lines, at which point your stash is subject to the laws of that jurisdiction.)


According to the most recent report from the OMMU, there are exactly 854,178 licensed medical cardholders in Florida as of October. With each patient paying the $75 fee, twice per year, that works out to about $128 million that goes right into the state’s coffers. That provides a healthy incentive to maintain the status quo, which helps explain the ongoing legal dispute related to recreational use. But as things stand, it looks likely that we’ll have about 14 months of the current system in place before something new and as yet TBD is put in place instead. What that means for current cardholders, and the doctors who make it possible, remains unclear.


About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected].