Alert: Florida Medical Marijuana Scams Prompt Warning

TALLAHASSEE, FL — A new scam cropping up in the Sunshine State is meant to part those in need of medical marijuana from their money. Reports of its existence have prompted a plea for caution from the Florida Department of Health.

The state agency says scammers are targeting Floridians, posing as businesses that offer “free or reduced-cost access to medical marijuana.” In some cases, the scammers are saying they represent the state’s Office of Compassionate Use as they attempt to gain access to victims’ credit card information.

The department first caught wind of the scams last week after receiving complaints out of Jacksonville, Mara Gambineri, FDOH’s communications director, told Patch. Yard signs started popping up in the city that advertise “Legal Weed” for a $199 office visit. Those signs and other concerns have prompted FDOH to issue a statewide warning.

Floridians with cancer or conditions that cause chronic muscle spasms or seizures may be eligible to use low-THC cannabis under a state law passed in 2014. Florida’s Amendment 2, which broadens eligibility, went into effect in January after voters approved it in 2016. The Florida House and Senate, however, are still working on rules related to the amendment before it is fully implemented.

As the new rules continue to work their way through the Florida Legislature, people potentially eligible for medical marijuana use under the 2014 law will find there are several ways they can protect themselves from potential scams. There are also telltale signs to look for to smoke out a scammer, FDOH said.

“The department’s Office of Compassionate use is the only entity issuing identification cards for medical marijuana in Florida,” a Wednesday morning email from the agency said. “No third party is authorized to process applications.”

The agency warns that credit card information should not be shared with any third party that advertises the ability to obtain medical marijuana cards. As it turns out, a request for credit card information to obtain an identification card is a major tipoff to a potential scam. FDOH’s Office of Compassionate Use does not accept credit cards, the agency’s email said. “There is no need to ever provide your credit card information to the department’s Office of Compassionate Use.”

The agency also offers guidance to help residents connect with authorized medical marijuana providers:

  • Know the organizations authorized to cultivate, process and dispense marijuana – There are only seven businesses in the entire state that are authorized to do so. The full list can be found on FDOH’s website.
  • Know who can legally prescribe medical marijuana – The Office of Compassionate Use keeps a list of physicians who have completed a required education course. To find a physician authorized by the state, visit FDOH online.

Residents who have been targeted by scammers are asked to report incidents to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA. Fraud victims are also asked to report incidents to the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-966-7226.

Original Post: Sarasota Patch

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