MONROE COUNTY — The passing of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, known as Amendment 2, was a big success for pot proponents across the state on Nov. 8. Needing 60 percent approval, the ballot item garnered 71 percent. So beginning Jan. 3, doctors approved by the state will be able to issue cannabis to patients suffering from a wider range of ailments than ever before.

According to research firm New Frontier Data, the passing of Amendment 2 could result in the medical marijuana market in Florida growing to $1.6 billion by 2020. The researchers predict that Florida will command 16 percent of the U.S. medical marijuana market by 2020 due to the median age across the state.

“The state’s large elderly population represents a potentially large cannabis patient base, but there will need to be a significant education process to familiarize them with the potential benefits of cannabis and its uses,” said New Frontier CEO Giadha DeCarcer in a Nov. 8 press release.

Part of that predicted boom will likely be felt in Monroe County.

Three doctors here have already completed the training required to issue medical marijuana, according to the Florida Department of Health. They include Dr. Bobbi K. Leben, with Florida Keys Orthopedics in Key Largo; Dr. Ian Rae, with A1 Urgent Care in Key Largo; and Dr. Sandra Schwemmer, medical director for EMS services in Monroe County, Islamorada and Marathon.

The state training for medical marijuana doctors is an eight- to 12-hour webinar course.

Leben told the Free Press that she completed the training last month because she feels that medical marijuana will give certain patients an alternative to highly-addictive opioids, or pain killers.

“Opioid side effects get worse as your get older,” Leben said. “So I’m always searching for something that cuts back on that.”


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