State officials warn of scam targeting medical marijuana patients

FILE (AP Photo/Richard Vogel,File)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Health is putting a warning out about a medical marijuana scam. Officials say scam artists are to pretending to offer free or reduced-cost access to medicinal cannabis, in exchange for credit card information. Don’t be fooled by this fraud.

Officials warn some scammers pretend to be businesses or even the “Office of Compassionate Use.”

“I think it’s easy to get rid of the scammers if you just know the process. But, once again, there’s so little information and education out there,” said Dr. Barry Gordon, with the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic of Venice.

Here’s how it works. To access medical cannabis, you must first get treatment from a qualified, ordering physician and wait 90 days. The physician will help you get registered into the compassionate use patient registry.

You need to also apply for an ID card and pay a $75 fee by check.

After that, you can have access to medical marijuana at one of seven dispensaries across the state.

“No one’s going to be calling you asking for money from any state system, any doctor’s office,” said Dr. Gordon.

Gordon just opened the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic of Venice a few months ago. His appointments are filling up fast. Dr. Gordon feels it’s unfortunate that scammers are taking advantage of people who are simply looking for medical help.

“These patients should not have to fly under the radar, doing things that are illegal; they want to be honest citizens,” said Dr. Gordon.

Here are some more tips provided by the Florida Department of Health:

  • The department’s Office of Compassionate Use is the only entity issuing identification cards for medical marijuana in Florida. No third party is authorized to process applications. Do not provide credit card information to any third party entity advertising the ability to obtain medical marijuana cards.
  • The department does not currently accept credit cards as a form of payment for an Office of Compassionate Use identification card. There is no need to ever provide your credit card information to the department’s Office of Compassionate Use.
  • There are seven dispensing organizations authorized to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana. These seven are the only businesses in Florida authorized to dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients and legal representatives.
  • The Office of Compassionate Use maintains a list of physicians who have completed the required eight-hour education course.

For more information on obtaining medical marijuana or finding a qualified ordering physician, contact the Florida Department of Health.

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