Target 8: Cancer patient waits 3 plus months for medical marijuana card

Investigations

(WFLA) – Medical marijuana represents relief for some cancer patients.

Lisa Alfonso is fighting her sixth ovarian cancer recurrence in as many six years.

“There’s a lot of pain associated with ovarian cancer,” said Lisa.

Then there’s the chemotherapy.

“Those drugs are just brutal, so I was pretty sick,” she explained.

Dr. Lora Brown of St. Petersburg evaluated Lisa. She prescribed medical marijuana to ease the pain and side effects.

Lisa sent the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use her $75 and application for an ID card which allows her to buy the medication.

“I waited and waited,” added Lisa.

Last week we told you other patients have waited months to get their ID cards.

We also reported that Christian Bax, the director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use told lawmakers the approval process takes 30 days.

In Lisa’s case, it took three and a half months.

“The department, you know, has thousands of employees,” Mr. Bax told lawmakers during an October legislative hearing. “It does a lot of things but the industrial printing of identification cards is not one of them.”

The Department of Health didn’t like the Target 8 report. It fired off a nasty gram complaining that I didn’t include its explanation, that its recent decision to award a contract to a company to mass produce ID cards is being challenged.

I didn’t include that explanation in my report because it explains just the last few weeks.

Delays have dragged on for a year and Christian Bax’s office had as few as three full-time employees processing tens of thousands of medical marijuana user applications.

“I think we need to ax Bax,” stated attorney John Morgan.

Mr. Morgan pushed the effort to expand patient use of medical marijuana. It is his contention that the state needs 30 to 40 full-time employees processing the applications and cards.

“This is denying patients access to medical care that works,” said Mr. Morgan.

The state says delays are also caused by people forgetting to sign their applications or not submitting passport style photos.

According to Lisa Alfonso, the state never notified her that there was a problem with her application. It just took three and a half months.

Lisa received her medical marijuana user ID card in mid October. So the problem the state cites with a contract being challenged in late October doesn’t seem connected to the delay Lisa experienced.

John Morgan blames the delays on Tallahassee’s dysfunction, lack of commitment and politicians and bureaucrats who instead of diving in and getting their hands dirty, send explanations that don’t apply.

If you have a problem you think we should look into, call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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