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Florida medical marijuana patients say lawmakers are ignoring the will of the voters by creating unnecessary red tape

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The 5-year-old boy is now starting to learn basic motor skills with a physical therapist and, to the excitement of his family, has started making noises and playing with toys without hurting himself. Delgadillo never thought she would see her son walk on a treadmill or hear his baby babble, but for the first time, it feels like Bruno is just another kid. In a way, it validates these past years of fighting with insurance companies for treatment to keep Bruno alive and of trying to convince the public to vote for the medical marijuana her son needs.

"Having to convince people was really sad for me," she says. "I never imagined myself being involved in politics. I thought if a child got sick, a doctor would decide what the child needs."

Although Bruno lives in Miami, his medical marijuana provider is Knox Medical, a company based out of Orange County started by Knox Nursery, a 23-acre facility in Winter Garden. In a few weeks, Knox will open the first medical marijuana dispensary in Central Florida at 1901 N. Orange Ave., next to White Wolf Cafe in Ivanhoe Village, says Adam Sharon, a spokesperson for the company. The Orlando dispensary is able to open despite a local moratorium because it's only selling cannabis of the low-THC variety. The company plans to open a dispensary in Gainesville soon and will also debut locations in Lake Worth, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

"A lot of effort has gone into it," Sharon says. "We're working with some of the top architects, designers and builders in the state. You see stories in other places about pot shops on every corner, but that's not what's coming to Florida at all. It's a top-quality medicine that's being rolled out for the state in a very calibrated, drawn-out process. It's a brave new world."

Sharon says after more than three years of twists and turns, and in the face of what looks to be more rules, Knox Medical chooses to operate in the now and proceed to provide medical marijuana to patients as the law allows.

"We can't control what may or may not happen, but we can proceed with providing medicine to the community and making it more available," he says. "When the people who live along North Orange Avenue in the Ivanhoe district learn more about medical marijuana, it's going to be part of the fabric of the community. Every day, people are going to see parents, teachers, veterans, children and their neighbors coming in and out of these dispensaries. I do feel like we'll almost have a collective 'aha' moment of what dispensaries are, and that will help guide lawmakers and cities to say we can live with this."

For Delgadillo, making sure her son has the best medical marijuana treatment means opening up the market and allowing for different forms of ingestion, depending on what's suitable for the patient. She has a friend in chemotherapy who will sometimes smoke a joint to ease her pain, and knows a mother who feeds half an edible gummy to her autistic son to help keep him calm. Delgadillo thinks that opening the market to more growers and dispensaries would also significantly lower the prices of medical marijuana. She's had to pay out-of-pocket for Bruno's marijuana patient card, for his doctor's visits and for the low-THC cannabis he needs.

"It's very challenging, especially since insurance doesn't cover any of it," she says. "My son doesn't walk, he's very heavy right now and I have a herniated disc so I can't carry him. We're trying to do fundraisers to raise money for a wheelchair van, so it's something I know I have to pay for. It's hard."

Ultimately, Delgadillo wants the state to stop treating her and her child like recreational marijuana users trying to game the system.

"If someone wanted to do it for recreation, it's cheaper on the black market than all the money we spend on getting registered and paying for medicine," she says. "I really think it should be between a doctor and patient. This is not going to be a CVS or candy in a supermarket where anyone can take it. They're treating it as something that's going to kill someone. It's not."

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