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Bill Would Give Florida Veterans Free Medical Marijuana Cards

Medical marijuana on a shelf in a dispensary.
Julio Ochoa
WUSF Public Media
The legislation would alleviate some of the costs associated with obtaining medical marijuana. JULIO OCHOA/WUSF PUBLIC MEDIA

Veterans will no longer have to pay for medical marijuana cards if bills filed by Sen. Janet Cruz and Rep. Adam Hattersley pass during the upcoming Florida legislative session.

The pair of Hillsborough County Democrats recently filed legislation to waive the registration fees for vets. The goal is to increase their access to treatments other than opioids.

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Rep. Hattersley spent eight years in the U.S. Navy, including a combat tour in Iraq, and said he has seen first-hand the physical and mental trauma military service can cause. That's why he wants to save veterans who are eligible to use marijuana for treatment some extra money.

Patients currently have to register for a medical marijuana card every year, and pay $75 each time.

"So it's not a huge burden, but any small thing that we can do to help veterans get the treatment they deserve, I think we need to do," Hattersley said.

Other nieher states offer similar discounts for veterans, seniors and low-income residents. If passed, this would be the first medical marijuana discount offered in Florida.

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The cost of the card itself is just one of many costs medical marijuana patients have to pay out-of-pocket for, as neither private insurance nor the VA cover treatment.

The VA allows veterans in its care to use medical marijuana, but does not allow VA doctors to recomend it.

Patients have to see private-sector doctors who are qualified to recommend medical marijuana. The initial visit typically costs about $250.

Medical marijuana products and equipment sold in dispensaries can range from $20 to more than $300.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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