Miami doctor George Tabi received approval from the state to recommend medical marijuana to patients. For now, though, he's holding off, not because he has concerns about the substance, but because he has concerns about the still-unclear state and local regulations for how to get it to patients.
"We're all sitting back, like, let's see what the state does, what the city council does," he tells New Times. "They should be doing what you're doing, calling us seeing what we think. It's not like we're quacks. We went to school for 12 years."
Though Tallahassee is still haggling over the rules for medical pot — and the City of Miami isn't so sure it feels like allowing it at all — the state has licensed more than 630 physicians to recommend it. Just more than a third, 236 doctors, are in South Florida: 111 in Miami-Dade, 66 in Broward, and 59 in Palm Beach.
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Miami-Dade has the highest share of licensees — more than three times the number in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake Counties combined. To obtain approval from the state, the doctors had to complete an eight-hour course and pass an exam.
Last November, Floridians voted overwhelmingly to pass Amendment 2, changing the state constitution to allow doctors to recommend marijuana for conditions such as cancer, ALS, Parkinson's disease, HIV/AIDS, and epilepsy.
Yet politicians at the local and state levels haven't exactly seemed eager to embrace medical marijuana. Cities including Miami Beach passed temporary moratoriums on it. And in Tallahassee, legislators are considering regulations more restrictive than the laws in place before the passage of Amendment 2. (This past Tuesday, the representative behind the bill said he'd consider revising it due to criticism, the Tampa Bay Times reported.) Then there's new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who believes marijuana is roughly as bad as heroin.
Tabi, who specializes in family medicine, says compared to the other medications available for patients suffering from pain, medical marijuana is far less harmful. As a doctor, he says, it's frustrating to know that more dangerous drugs are legal while medical marijuana is stigmatized.
"More cohesiveness and openness about it, and being honest about it as a society, will make it easier for physicians to treat patients," Tabi says. "Take the stupid stigma off so we can do it right."