The paper at hand will analyze the Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, Amendment 2, which was passed in the state of Florida on November 8, 2016, and came into legal force on January 3, 2017. The policy allows patients who are suffering from debilitating or terminal medical conditions to receive marijuana as a part of their treatment, certified by a licensed Florida physician specializing in the use of the drug (“Florida medical marijuana qualification,” 2017). The policy came about as a result of a long debate on the ethical aspects of the problem. Despite the fact that Florida authorities opted for this step (seeming radical to many), there remains a growing need for the active participation of health-care organizations in research and policy development. Clear, enforceable rules are required for all health-care units to understand what is permitted by the new policy and what continues to be prohibited and carries serious ramifications.
Policy Tools and the Behavioral Assumptions of Policy Makers
Since the issue of medical marijuana is among those that generate the most controversy, the political climate has played a significant role in determining the tools and methods to be used in introducing the policy. Before passing the amendment, Florida authorities were subject to the pressure of the political community in pointing out the following problems:
- There are still no production standards for growing marijuana plants for health-care facilities that distribute marijuana-based products among patients. Thus, two different plants may produce different effects.
- There is no dosing standard or schedule since it is unclear how much of the drug should be taken and at what intervals. In the case of marijuana, the patient simply receives a card providing access to marijuana dispensaries.
- There is a possibility of inflicting harm to health through chronic consumption. The research on the topic is insufficient to conclude what consequences can be expected from prolonged use (Wilkinson & D’Souza, 2014).
In terms of the most worrying behavioral assumptions, they include:
- Patients who have access to the drug may abuse it. Furthermore, those who do not have special cards (including children and teenagers) will have easier access to marijuana if they are living in the same house with the patient. Their behavior and attitude might change when they observe that one of the members of their family is consuming drugs on a regular basis.
- Public opinion regarding the potential harm offered by marijuana is altered through the legalization of its use. Many people may begin to believe that this drug is harmless regardless of the user’s health condition (Wilkinson & D’Souza, 2014).
To deal with these concerns raised by health-care policy-makers, Florida authorities have opted for allocative policy tools. This implies that the official marijuana policy involves the direct provision of services and medications to a strictly limited group of patients. Distributive or redistributive tools would likely aggravate ethical concerns. Thus, the following allocation methods were chosen:
- limiting the number of patients eligible for marijuana use to a strict list of particular conditions (HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, seizures, multiple sclerosis, etc.);
- setting an age requirement for patients to be over 18;
- requiring Florida I.D. as a proof of residency;
- making patients go through a marijuana evaluation appointment to check their medical records and diagnosis (which should be a debilitating medical condition);
- registering patients who are allowed to use medical marijuana at the Department of Health; and
- demanding that patients should have tried other treatment options before applying for this one (“Florida medical marijuana qualification,” 2017).
The authorities have also used educational tools to promote the policy across the health-care community and have organized meet-up forums, conferences, and organizations to distribute the information. They have established contact hours in information centers to facilitate the process for both professionals and patients to learn more about the issue. This was done to promote the active involvement of the community in implementing the newly adopted policy.
The Role of Professional Nursing Organizations
The American Cannabis Nursing Association, also operating in Florida, has demonstrated a high level of interest in promoting this policy issue. Its major task was to provide information about medical marijuana, its applications, safety, and effects on patients. Moreover, the organization has increased awareness in the nursing community concerning the cultivation and storage of the plant and legal sanctions to nurses in the case of any violations (“American Cannabis Nurses Association,” 2017). The organization also created a forum for nurses to communicate and discuss questionable points.
The Office of Compassionate Use or Office of Medical Marijuana Use is a local Florida organization charged with implementing all regulations connected with medical cannabis. Although the organization was not created specifically for nurses, it provides them with extensive information on the implementation of the drug (“Office of Medical Marijuana Use,” 2017). Here, nurses can also learn the particulars of the training required to manage such patients.
The major recommendation for other nursing organizations is to be involved in research concerning medical marijuana implementation. Many issues remain unclear. Another recommended approach is to organize patient education to prevent complications, misunderstanding, abuse, and addiction.
There are several talking points I would like to discuss with other health-care professionals:
- What is the relationship between a state’s legislation and its acceptance of medical marijuana?
- Should young adults be eligible for a program that involves medical marijuana use?
- Is self-reported information sufficiently reliable to ensure that the patient does not abuse the drug?
- What can be done to change the attitude of the general public to the policy?
American Cannabis Nurses Association. (2017). Web.
Florida medical marijuana qualification. (2017). Web.
Office of Medical Marijuana Use. (2017). Web.
Wilkinson, S. T., & D’Souza, D. C. (2014). Problems with the medicalization of marijuana. Jama, 311(23), 2377-2378.