Getting medical marijuana could soon be as easy as walking into an urgent care clinic and seeing a doctor.
Florida is seeing a new chain of “walk-in” medical marijuana clinics, which will allow patients to walk into a clinic, see board-certified physicians and walk out with recommendations for medical marijuana.
Tetra Health Centers are the creation of Tracilea Young, a California-based entrepreneur who has hopes of making Florida the next stop for her walk-in medical marijuana clinic business.
Young has been in the business since 2015, opening clinics in Sacramento after her husband was diagnosed with throat cancer.
What Young discovered about medical marijuana facilities shocked her.
Treatment centers were dirty, run down and not of the caliber Young said she expected from a high-quality medical office.
"It was an awful experience. He was so sick," Young told the Tampa Tribune. "So we opted for medical marijuana and were just so surprised with what the experience was like."
So Young decided to take matters into her own hands, opening a walk-in clinic in Sacramento.
When Florida voters approved an amendment to expand the use of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, Young packed her bags and headed east, expanding Tetra Health Centers as the state’s medical marijuana business began to boom.
So far, Young has opened six walk-in clinics, all located in the Orlando-Tampa area. Clinics can be found in Brandon, Clearwater, North Tampa, South Tampa, St. Petersburg and in Winter Park.
Patients coming into a Tetra clinics shouldn’t expect to see a doctor and walk out with marijuana, but what they can expect is to see qualified physicians who can make recommendations on whether medical marijuana is right for them.
Despite Young’s entrepreneurial spirit, the clinics aren’t seeing a flood of patients come through their doors each day.
According to the Tribune, the clinics see around 13 patients each day -- hardly a swarm of people attempting to get a prescription for the drug.
Florida’s medical marijuana industry has been slow getting off the ground. There are relatively few doctors and physicians who can write scripts for the drug due to an intense application and regulatory process. Some doctors, seeing the obstacles, don’t even bother applying for a license to write out prescriptions.
Earlier this summer, state lawmakers passed a lengthy system of regulations for the state’s newly-expanded medical marijuana laws.
The legislation allows for 10 new medical marijuana treatment centers to open by Oct. 3, in addition to the seven original growers already in operation.
The newly-passed law allows patients to use edibles, vaping, oils and pill form of medical cannabis, but the current legislation prohibits smoking the drug, which has become a hot button issue for some medical marijuana advocates throughout the state.
The state’s ban on smoking has already prompted Orlando-based attorney John Morgan to sue over the matter, asserting the constitutional amendment’s language implies smoking should be allowed in patients’ homes.
“In the amendment, it is very, very clear that it says smoking is not allowed in public and that’s the only place smoking can be addressed by the Legislature,” Morgan said last month. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if smoking isn’t allowed in public, it must be allowed in private.”
Morgan and other critics of the smoking ban have said the exclusion of smoking as a way to ingest the drug is particularly cruel to suffering patients.
“They’re making it a health issue like someone in chemotherapy is taking a few tokes,” Morgan told Sunshine State News. “It’s a bunch of people who don't understand what they don't understand. When you're dying the last thing you care about is the smoke from marijuana."
For people like Young, however, there’s still opportunity to be seized in Florida -- Young says she plans to open up 20 more walk-in clinics by the end of the year.