HomePoliticsMedical marijuana patients in Florida receive an unexpected email praising DeSantis

Medical marijuana patients in Florida receive an unexpected email praising DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida has more than 700,000 medical marijuana patients and the Republican governor has more than 700,000 medical marijuana patients. Ron DeSantis — who is fighting a proposal to allow recreational use of marijuana — wants everyone to know what a great job he’s doing.

The Department of Health sent a bombshell email to the medical marijuana patient list last week, boasting that DeSantis had signed the state budget. The email praised a cancer research program promoted by first lady Casey DeSantis, listed health issues such as HIV, hepatitis and syphilis that are in the spending plan and provided a message from Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo that he and DeSantis “ promote public health and personal responsibility. in Florida.”

Nothing in the email mentions medical marijuana, and patients and advocates say the DeSantis administration has violated their privacy by using the patient list to promote policy.

“That’s disgusting. That really is such an abuse of power and information,” said state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, the top Democrat on the House Health Policy Committee. “I guarantee you that no one checked the box that said, ‘Yes, it’s okay to send me information about Governor DeSantis’ agenda. ”

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The Department of Health said it did not single out the medical marijuana patients but sent the budget statement to everyone in its email databases, which, according to spokeswoman Weesam Khoury, includes more than “2 million members of the public, health care professionals, licensees, and media.”

Khoury was asked if the department has email databases for other patients, such as cancer, COVID-19 or HIV, but did not provide details on whether such databases exist or if they were also used to promote the governor’s budget.

“It’s unfortunate that The Associated Press decided to write a story about the inconvenience of an email, instead of reporting on the key investments that will save countless lives,” she said.

Patient advocates say it’s more than just an inconvenience, it’s a violation of privacy — not just because the governor’s promotion has nothing to do with their health care. Florida has broad public records laws and if someone obtained the master email list, they could deduce who a medical marijuana patient is since they make up about 35% of recipients.

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Patients could be exposed to unwanted marketing and political messages, or worse, employers could see who has a medical marijuana card.

“This was a ‘look how great the governor is and how much he’s done for us at the Department of Health,’” said Jodi James, president of the nonprofit Florida Cannabis Action Network. “My information should not be part of their general email blast list by any stretch of the imagination.”

Ironically, DeSantis has been a vocal critic of “Big Tech” and accused private companies of misusing users’ personal information.

It’s shocking that the state would use the patient email list for its policy agenda, said Democratic Party Chairman Nikki Fried, a former agriculture commissioner who oversaw the list of concealed weapons permit holders.

“I would have been burned alive if I had done anything with that database to release their information to another part of my agency, or used that database to inform the rest of the news or activities of the Department of Agriculture push,” Fried said. . “It’s irresponsible.”

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A medical marijuana patient in Pensacola told The Associated Press that he and others plan to file a formal complaint.

“If it was a doctor who released your private patient information for some other agenda, then I think someone should be held accountable,” said the patient, who did not want his name used to protect his medical privacy.

Personal injury attorney John Morgan, who led the state’s medical marijuana effort in 2016, questioned how the email did not violate federal law limiting the release of medical information. He also said the email list would be a godsend for people looking to use it for political purposes, including promoting recreational marijuana in November.

“That would be the largest list they could ever have for this election,” he said.

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