PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – For the second time in two years, voters in Florida are considering a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.
Operations at South Florida's first medical marijuana dispensary are in full swing and are prepared to meet the needs of patients who qualify for the drug under Florida's existing laws.
"We extract the raw oil from the dry product, we purify it, test it and make medicine," Dr. Eddy Blanco of Modern Health Concepts said. "We test it again, and then we can release it to our patients."
The extracted oil can be used in a number of ways, inhaling it through vapors or putting drops of the oil in food or beverages.
Under Florida's current limited-use laws, medical marijuana can be used for chronic seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, to offset the effects of cancer treatment and for those with terminal illnesses.
The amendment currently before Florida voters would expand the use to six other debilitating conditions.
"The idea of using cannabis here in Florida is to relieve that extract. We will not be releasing the smoked plant product for people to either vaporize or smoke," Nova Southeastern pharmacist Dr. Jose Valdes said.
Valdes said that although many believe that the drug helps a variety of conditions, that has yet to be scientifically proven.
"We are slowly getting there, but what we have right now is just a bunch of anecdotal efficacy data to say it might be useful in this diseases, but we're not exactly sure," he said.
Supporters of medical marijuana said personal experience is all the validation they need.
"It certainly is something that allows me to function in society 100 percent more than what Percocet, Demerol, Vicodin or any other drugs prescribed through a pharmacy were able to do," a patient identified only as M.J., who suffers from chronic pain, said.
A total of 25 states have approved some form of medical marijuana, and a recent Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans are in favor of its use.
If the amendment passes, the Florida Department of Health will set guidelines for how it's dispensed and monitored.