1. What is medical marijuana?

Important Terms

Cannabinoids: Naturally occurring chemical compounds in hemp and marijuana plants; also known as plant cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids

CBD (cannabidiol): Often, but not always, the second-most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana

CBN (cannibinol): Cannabinoid known for its ability to promote sleep and relaxation

Hemp: A non-psychoactive variety of the Cannabis sativa plant

Medical marijuana (as defined by Florida Senate Bill 8A): All parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin, including low-THC cannabis, which are dispensed from a medical marijuana treatment center for medical use by a qualified patient

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol): Cannabinoid responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering/psychoactive effects

What is marijuana?

Marijuana (also known as cannabis) is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, which is part of the Cannabaceae family. While researchers are still trying to pinpoint an exact number, recent studies suggest marijuana contains over 100 unique chemical compounds called cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are what make marijuana “work”. (More on that in a second…)

For now, all you need to know is that different cannabinoids do different things. For instance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) gives marijuana its psychoactive effect. Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, exerts its influence without any type of “high.”

Is marijuana really medicine?

Marijuana as medicine dates back to 2900 B.C., with the Shennong Ben Cao Jing (an ancient Chinese text) recording prescribed uses for rheumatic pain, malaria, and other common ailments. Archaeological and historical accounts also suggest cannabis was used, in combination with wine, to anesthetize patients
during surgery.

While Western medicine didn’t pick up on the treatment until the early 19th century, researchers were quick to hop on board; by the end of the century, there were over 100 publications on medical cannabis in Europe and the United States.

In 1976, the United States Controlled Substances Act classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug, abruptly halting most marijuana research and making access to critical resources for future studies difficult to achieve.

Fortunately, recent social, political, and legislative changes have turned the tide.

In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that reviewed 10,000 scientific abstracts and reached nearly 100 conclusions that found countless medical uses for marijuana and cannabis-derived products.

“Regular” versus medical marijuana

Wondering what’s the difference between “regular” marijuana and medical marijuana? (You’re not alone! We get that question a lot!)

The short answer? It depends on where you are and what you’re using it for.

Marijuana is marijuana. So the distinction really comes down to legal definitions (currently decided by each state) and how the plant is being used.

In a nutshell, “regular” or recreational marijuana is used without any medical justification.

As Harvard researchers explain:

“Although products used by recreational marijuana consumers and medical marijuana patients are derived from the same plant species, they are generally utilized for different purposes (i.e., to get high/alter one’s current state of being vs. symptom alleviation). Accordingly, recreational and medical users often seek different marijuana products with various constituent compositions based on the desired effect. Recreational marijuana users often seek products high in THC, the main psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant, and while medical patients may also choose products with high THC levels they often seek products high in other potentially therapeutic cannabinoids.”

So what does Florida legislation say?

According to Senate Bill 8A, all parts of any Cannabis plant count; however, marijuana is only considered “medical” if it’s dispensed from a medical marijuana treatment center to a statequalified

What about hemp?

Everyone gets so confused about hemp!

True story: Even the United States government can’t keep it straight! (For more on that mix-up, check out our blog post: What is Hemp? And Why Does It Matter?)

Hemp is another variety of the Cannabis sativa plant. However, while hemp shares a lot of common properties with marijuana, there’s one big difference:

Hemp can’t get you high.

According to the Ministry of Hemp:

“Your lungs will fail before your brain attains any high from smoking industrial hemp.”

Yep, it might not sound exciting, but hemp seeds are primarily used in food products (such as bread, milk, and cereal) and/or made into oil (including fuel, paint, and ink). Fiber from the plant’s stalk is often used in clothing and construction.

Fun fact: Hemp is more sustainable and 60 times faster to market than lumber.

Still confused? Think about marijuana and hemp as siblings. They share much of the same genetic makeup, but they’re two unique individuals.

Tell me more about cannabinoids

No problem! Here’s a little cannabinoid trivia for ya:

  • Cannabinoids are sometimes called plant cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids
  • THC is the only plant cannabinoid (that we know of) that has clear psychoactive effects on its own
  • We’ve already reviewed THC and CBD; CBN (cannibinol) is another big player (known for making people relax)

Additional reading

Still curious? Keep learning with some of our favorite posts:

Coming up next…

In the next chapter, we’ll review how marijuana works!

2. How does medical marijuana work?

Important Terms

Cannabinoid receptors: Receptors located throughout the body that interact with both endogenous (“natural/human”) cannabinoids and plant cannabinoids; the two known types of receptors are classified as CB1 and CB2

Endogenous cannabinoids: The body’s “natural cannabinoids”; chemical compounds (lipid-based neurotransmitters)
that interact with cannabinoid receptors to form the endocannabinoid system

Endocannabinoid system: Biological system composed of endogenous cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors; involved with regulating cognitive function, appetite, metabolism, stress, immune function, sleep, pain, thermoregulation, and more

How does marijuana do stuff?

Cannabinoids make the world go round. (Well, not really. But they are super important! So if you haven’t already, make sure you brush up on Chapter One!)

All marijuana plants contain a variety of cannabinoids (such as THC, CBD, and CBN). These chemical compounds interact with our body through a unique biological system known as the endocannabinoid system to produce marijuana’s effects.

What is the endocannabinoid system?

Talk about being late to the party! The endocannabinoid system wasn’t even discovered until the early ‘90s and, if researchers are right: It might just be one of the most important systems in our whole body!

The endocannabinoid system is comprised of cannabinoid receptors and naturally produced cannabinoids, known as endogenous cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are extremely similar to the ones produced by the Cannabis plant (which is why it’s helpful to distinguish between them as phytocannabinoids and endogenous cannabinoids).

Whew! That’s a lot of “cannabinoids” in one little description!

How does the system work?

Since everything’s so new, scientists are still working out the details. However, the basics go like this:

Our body produces endogenous cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors seem to be primarily located in our brain, while CB2 receptors are mainly expressed in immune tissues and spread out all over. (Again, research is young. Scientists are constantly discovering new things in different places!)

These interactions, which make up the endocannabinoid system, are thought to underlie a number of really important functions, including:

  • Appetite
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Cognitive function
  • Metabolism
  • Stress
  • Immune function

Give me some examples…

Okay, let’s talk about pain.

When body tissue is damaged, your cells produce cannabinoids that regulate inflammation and pain sensation through interaction with cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are the same receptors targeted by cannabinoids in marijuana.

(So far, so good…)

Your body produces two types of cannabinoids in response to tissue damage: anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl-sn-glycerol (2-AG). (Don’t get thrown off by the names, they’re not that important! Remember our ice cream lesson!)

When you experience inflammation and nerve injury, anandamide springs into action and helps regulate pain signals by activating CB1 receptors. Its partner, 2-AG, plays a big role in decreasing pain during acute stress.

Since cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the central nervous system and in pain circuits from peripheral sensory nerve endings all the way up to the brain (so basically: everywhere!), cannabinoids are able to play a moderating role in different types of pain (including neuropathic pain and centralized pain like fibromyalgia).

As a recent Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research review explains:

“Understanding the function of endogenous [naturally produced] cannabinoids helps explain the efficacy of exogenous cannabinoids, such as those found in the cannabis plant, in treating pain.”

Summed up:

“The biologically hypothesized rationale for cannabinoid administration is whole-body exposure to exogenous cannabinoids to turn on pain inhibition.”

In other words?

If naturally produced cannabinoids can help decrease pain, introducing external cannabinoids (found in marijuana) should definitely help, too!

What does science say?

We’re not making this stuff up: Scientists are pumped about the endocannabinoid system!

Just take a look at the peer-reviewed journal, Pharmacological Reviews. Their article, The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy, has already been cited over 1,600 times!

Other exciting publications, such as The Therapeutic Aspects of the Endocannabinoid System for Cancer, signal an important shift: Marijuana is no longer the bad guy. Instead, it might just be the hero!

Coming up next…

In the next chapter, we’ll review Florida’s medical marijuana laws. (Definitely an important time to pay attention!)

3. What are Florida’s marijuana laws?

Important Terms

Amendment 2: Florida legislation, passed in 2016, legalizing statewide use of medical marijuana; also known as the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Low-THC cannabis (as defined by Senate Bill 8A): A plant of the genus Cannabis, the dried flowers of which contain .8 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and more than 10 percent of cannabidiol weight for weight

Medical Marijuana Use Registry: Database for the registration of ordering physicians and qualified patients, run by the Florida Department of Health: Office of Medical Marijuana Use

Seasonal resident: Any person who resides in Florida for a period of at least 31 consecutive days in each calendar year, maintains a temporary residence in Florida, returns to the state or jurisdiction of his or her residence at least one time during each calendar year, and is registered to vote or pays income tax in another state or jurisdiction

Senate Bill 8A: Florida legislation, passed in 2017, implementing Amendment 2; outlines rules for use and administration of medical marijuana

Is recreational marijuana legal in FL?

No. (Not too much more to say here…)

Is medical marijuana legal in FL?

Yes! (Okay, now we have lots to talk about!)

Medical cannabis became legal in Florida in 2016, with the passing of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2. Rules for use and administration were outlined several months later by Senate Bill 8A.

What medical conditions qualify?

According to Florida state law, patients suffering from the following conditions may qualify for medical marijuana treatment:

  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

(Tip: Click each condition to learn more about medical marijuana’s specific benefits!)

Senate Bill 8A also allows for treatment of other “diagnosable, debilitating conditions of like, kind, or class” (such as anxiety, depression, and migraines), as well as terminal conditions (diagnosed by a physician other than the physician issuing certification) and chronic nonmalignant pain (defined as pain caused by a qualifying medical condition that persists beyond the usual course of that condition).

Who qualifies?

According to Senate Bill 8A, a qualified patient is defined as:

“A resident of this state [Florida] who has been added to the medical marijuana use registry by a qualified physician to receive marijuana or a marijuana delivery device for a medical use and who has a qualified patient identification card.”

However, Senate Bill 8A expressly states that individuals who meet the definition of seasonal residents may qualify, as well:

“The term ‘seasonal resident’ means any person who temporarily resides in this state [Florida] for a period of at least 31 consecutive days in each calendar year, maintains a temporary residence in this state, returns to the state or jurisdiction of his or her residence at least one time during each calendar year, and is registered to vote or pays income tax in another state or jurisdiction.”

Where CAN’T I use medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana use and/or administration is strictly prohibited in the following places:

  • On any form of public transportation *
  • In any public place *
  • In the patient’s place of employment (unless permitted by his or her employer)
  • In a state correctional institution
  • On the grounds of a preschool, primary school, or secondary school
  • On a school bus
  • In a vehicle
  • In an aircraft
  • On a motorboat *

Exceptions: Low-THC cannabis use is permitted in categories followed by an asterisk (*). According to Senate Bill 8A, low-THC cannabis is defined as a plant of the genus Cannabis, the dried flowers of which contain .8 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and more than 10 percent of cannabidiol weight for weight.

Coming up next…

In the next chapter, we’ll review how to qualify for medical marijuana (that’s where we come in!). We’ll also explain how the whole process works from start to finish.

4. How to qualify for medical marijuana

Important Terms

GreenSide: (That’s us!) Medical marijuana doctors that provide state-required recommendations for patients to receive medical marijuana treatment

Initial appointment: A patient’s first appointment with a medical marijuana physician to determine eligibility for medical marijuana treatment

Medical marijuana card: Official card issued by the Florida Department of Health: Office of Medical Marijuana Use that allows patients to purchase and use medical marijuana

Medical marijuana recommendation: A recommendation provided by a certified doctor to the Florida Department of Health: Office of Medical Marijuana Use stating that a patient qualifies for medical marijuana treatment

Renewal appointment: State-required doctors appointment, no more than 210 days after a patient’s initial recommendation, determining eligibility to continue medical marijuana treatment

Where do I start?

Glad you asked!

In order to purchase medical marijuana, you have to qualify for treatment. And that’s where we come in!

Florida law requires all medical marijuana patients to have a state-issued medical card to make marijuana purchases; however, in order to get your medical marijuana card, you have to have a certified doctor provide a recommendation to the state (basically saying: yes, this patient qualifies!).

And that’s what GreenSide does!

All of our state-licensed, board-certified doctors have completed the required training to issue medical marijuana recommendations. Our job to is to help you receive treatment!

So the first step in the process? Schedule an appointment with an experienced GreenSide physician today!

Are your doctors “real” doctors?


In accordance with state law, all GreenSide doctors hold an active, unrestricted license as either an allopathic physician or osteopathic physician and are in compliance with all statemandated education requirements. At this time, educational requirements include completing an annual course and exam administered
by either the Florida Medical Association or Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. Also in line with Senate Bill 8A, GreenSide physicians are not employed by, and do not have any direct or indirect economic interest in, any medical marijuana treatment centers (also known as dispensaries) or marijuana testing laboratories.

Where are you guys located?

See our location here.

Are you sure I’m eligible?

Permanent and seasonal Florida residents who suffer from a qualifying condition may be eligible to receive medical marijuana treatment. (Note: GreenSide does not treat minors at this time.)

Seasonal (or “snowbird”) residents who reside in Florida for at least 31 consecutive days each calendar year and maintain a temporary residence in Florida may demonstrate eligibility by submitting a copy of two of the following documents that show proof of residential address:

  • A deed, mortgage, monthly mortgage statement, mortgage payment booklet, or residential rental or lease agreement
  • One proof of residential address from the seasonal resident’s parent, step-parent, legal guardian or other person with whom the seasonal resident resides and a statement from the person with whom the seasonal resident resides stating that the seasonal resident does reside with him or her
  • A utility hookup or work order dated within 60 days before registration in the medical use registry
  • A utility bill, not more than two months old
  • Mail from a financial institution, including checking, savings, or investment account statements, not more than two months old
  • Mail from a federal, state, county, or municipal government agency, not more than two months old
  • Any other documentation that provides proof of residential address as determined by department rule

What do I need?

You must be diagnosed with a qualifying condition before seeing a GreenSide doctor.

Florida state law requires that we see supporting documentation confirming your diagnosis for a qualifying condition. We accept physician-signed progress notes, written on either a prescription pad or practice letterhead, with your diagnosing doctor’s full name, date, and signature along with the condition for
which you’ve been diagnosed. We do not accept lab results, xrays, prescription bottles, patient portal screenshots, disability documentation, or pharmacy medication lists.

After scheduling you appointment, you’ll receive an email detailing how to submit this documentation prior to your visit. You can also call us with any questions: 1.866.896.9527

We like to get all of the boring paperwork out of the way so you can spend your appointment time doing important stuff, like talking with your doctor!

Lastly, make sure to bring your Florida driver’s license or state-issued identification card!

How much does it cost?

GreenSide’s initial appointment is only $249. This all-inclusive fee covers you for 210 days (the longest period allowed by state law!) and includes all dosage adjustments and order re-newals. (Dosage adjustments and order renewals are conveniently handled via email with your physician; normal response time is 24-48 hours.)

Florida law requires all patients to complete a face-to-face renewal appointment with their medical marijuana physician every 210 days. GreenSide‘s renewal fee is only $195 and covers you for an additional 210 days.

What happens after my appointment?

After your first appointment, you will receive an email from the Florida Department of Health with instructions to create an online account. After completing this process and following all related instructions (including providing proof of residency and paying a state-required fee of $75), you will receive a temporary
card via email in 7-21 days.

At this point, you may print your temporary card and purchase products from the Florida medical marijuana dispensary of your choice!

Coming up next…

In the next chapter, we’ll review how to purchase medical marijuana!

5. How to purchase medical marijuana

Important Terms

Medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs): The only businesses in Florida authorized to dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients and caregivers; also known as dispensaries

Office of Medical Marijuana Use: Part of the Florida Department of Health, charged with writing and implementing the department’s rules for medical marijuana, overseeing the statewide Medical Marijuana Use Registry, and licensing Florida businesses to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana to qualified patients

Where do I buy medical marijuana?

After you receive your state-issued card, you’re ready to purchase and use medical marijuana!

The Florida Department of Health: Office of Medical Marijuana Use has authorized a select number of medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs), also known as dispensaries. These are the only businesses in Florida that are authorized to sell medical marijuana to qualified patients and caregivers.

How do I know what to buy?

GreenSide doctors will provide you with dosing guidelines and approved methods of ingestion (basically: how much you can take and in what way). MMTC staff members will help advise on specific strains (or types of marijuana) and products.

How do I use medical marijuana?

According to Florida state law, patients may consume medical marijuana via a variety of methods including oils, sprays creams, patches, suppositories, tinctures, and vaping. Edibles are also allowed, but no rules have been developed for their use (so technically, you can’t use them… at least not yet!).

Can I smoke medical marijuana?

Definitely one of our most common questions!

Unfortunately at this time, Florida patients are not allowed to smoke medical marijuana; however, there is a widely publicized court case that’s hoping to shake things up!