The New Frontier of Medical Marijuana

illustration by Roosevelt Watson III

You could say that Dr. Justin Spooner has always practiced medicine from a place of compassion. After finishing medical school, he worked with hurricane Katrina survivors in both pediatric and adult psychiatry.  He went on to Indiana University and Johns Hopkins University and became Board Certified in adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Interventional Spine and Pain Medicine and Addiction Medicine.  Today he is pioneering the use of medical marijuana at his practice, Beaches Laser Spine & Pain.  We asked him to shed some light on the new medical marijuana legalization measures and what it means for patients.

jack: As a doctor, why do you see medicinal marijuana being beneficial to your patients?

Dr. Justin Spooner : Many patients see marijuana as a more natural treatment for spasms, seizures and other ailments while simultaneously alleviating their need for harmful medications with serious side effects. Using data from other states, where marijuana is legal, we evaluate appropriateness for therapy and medication dosing. Many of my patients have life-limiting illnesses, and I feel marijuana offers three clear benefits: acts as a dissociative medication, decreases spasms and the subjective experience of pain, as well as euphoria.

jack: Can you describe the certification process to become able to prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients?

Dr. J.S. : A physician must have a full, unrestricted license to practice medicine in the state of Florida, complete an eight-hour medical marijuana class and be capable of entering patients on both the department of health registry as well as send treatment plans quarterly to the University of Florida.

jack: What is the prescription process like for patients? What types of “marijuana medicines” do you prescribe, and can they pick them up from their local pharmacy?

Dr. J.S. : Patients are seen as a routine evaluation. In the course of evaluation, if they have a qualifying diagnosis and have failed conservative treatment, interested patients may be entered into a Compassionate Use registry after seeing a certified physician for three consecutive months. Once registered, the patient is provided an identification number and a list of dispensing nurseries. They may take it upon themselves to call any nursery of their choosing. Prices and products vary. Patients can fill all, or just part of the prescription recommended by their physician. The nursery will deliver product to patients home or in the near future, patients will be able to pick up product directly from the nursery. As of March of 2017, each patient must complete an application for a compassionate care card at the time of entry into the registry which will provide photo identification of patients legally prescribed marijuana. Patients are not able to pick medications up from their local pharmacy. It must be delivered to their home from a nursery.

jack: What types of “marijuana medicines” do you prescribe?

Dr. J.S. : There are high cannabinoid, low THC and high THC medical cannabis products available. While it remains illegal to smoke marijuana, the following methods are approved: vaping, sublingual, edible, suppository and topical. 

jack: How do you think the legislation that passed recently is going to affect the overall medical community in Florida?

Dr. J.S. : There is a great deal of confusion regarding recent legislation. It has certainly increased the popularity and bolstered support for compassionate prescribing; however, the recent legislation was an amendment expanding the concept and expressing the medical benefits of marijuana. Until Tallahassee writes new legislation, the recent vote has not changed availability with regard to available products, qualifying conditions or mandatory 90-day wait time. 

Dr. Justin Spooner has locations in Riverside and at the beach. For more information visit

illustration by Roosevelt Watson III

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