Florida Public Health Review

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Background: Florida became the first state in the U.S. South to legalize the use of medical marijuana to treat a variety of health conditions including chronic pain, epilepsy, and spasticity symptoms from multiple sclerosis. While there are over 200,000 medical marijuana patients in Florida, there remain financial, psychological, and insurance coverage barriers which reduce access for many patients. Purpose: This scoping review, with a focus on state health policy, first describes some clinical studies examining the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana. Next, there is a discussion of the Florida regulatory environment and major legislation. Also, the review describes how the current Florida policy landscape presents challenges for physicians and patients. Methods: A scoping review of the literature was conducted in PubMed and Google Scholar using the search terms, “medical marijuana” and “medical cannabis” to identify research articles, newspaper reports, and government documents. The purpose of the review was to identify research investigating the therapeutic efficacy of medical marijuana and state policies affecting physician practice. Results: The review concluded there was general scientific consensus of therapeutic benefits for patients, especially for chronic pain, from the use of medical marijuana. The review also identified several barriers for physicians and patients around cost, stigma, and lack of insurance coverage which constrains use and access. Discussion: The review discusses several directions for future medical marijuana policy and research with the aim to improve therapeutic benefits for Florida patients.