Mississippi medical marijuana patients, professionals on the look out for scams and other complications

Mississippi medical marijuana patients, professionals on the look out for scams and other complications

BILOXI - It’s been almost a full year since the sale of medical marijuana was approved in Mississippi.

Although the product still isn’t available for purchase, some patients who need the treatment are discovering the complications of the process to obtain a medical marijuana card. Scammers are also looking to take advantage of the new industry.

The medical cannabis program in Mississippi requires patients have at least one of the listed qualifying conditions to purchase the product. Long Beach resident Tommy Goldman suffers from multiple conditions needed for the treatment.

“I have chronic pain in my knees, and I’ve been diagnosed recently with Parkinson’s,” said Goldman.

In May, Kevin Webster, the owner of the group Ride to Wellness, said in a WLOX report he would help patients like Tommy Goldman through the process of getting medical marijuana for a fee of $199.

In September, Goldman took Webster up on his offer. After paying over the phone, he says Webster told him to meet at a Gulfport hotel to fill out the needed paper work for a medical marijuana card. When Goldman got there, no one representing Ride to Wellness was to be found, and his attempts to reach Webster have been unsuccessful.

“I tried calling him and haven’t heard anything from him since I gave him the money,” said Goldman.

Ride to Wellness has multiple Facebook pages saying it offers service in several states. No post has been made on its Mississippi page since July. The website listed on the Facebook pages isn’t an active website.

WLOX tried calling the numbers listed for Ride to Wellness and left messages, but no one from the organization returned the calls.

President of the Mississippi Better Business Bureau John O’Hara says there are complaints on Facebook about the group in Mississippi and Oklahoma. He says it’s always a good idea to research any company before paying money for a service up front, especially a newer industry like medical marijuana.

“This is taking advantage of Mississippi had just passed legalizing medical marijuana, so everybody is learning as we go through this,” O’Hara said.

The patients aren’t the only ones having to learn. Dr. Philip Levin is one of only 122 practitioners currently certified by the State Health Department to recommend the issue of medical marijuana cards in Mississippi.

“Once I started studying cannabis, I was blown away with how much good it does,” said Levin. “Once I found out how natural it was, how helpful and how harmless, I really wanted to help my patients.”

Levin says the time commitment to see patients wanting a medical marijuana card is holding up practitioners’ interest to get certified.

“It’s not an easy procedure,” said Levin. “You have to check the medical records to make sure they qualify, you have to do a drug screen, a PMP, a physical exam, do medical records and fill out the form. I also will give the patient another 5-10 minutes of information. So how can you run a clinic and spend 25 minutes on talking to the patients to get them certified just for the little bit of money you’re going to make off of it?”

Cultivators have been preparing for months to send out their products to approved dispensaries around the state. Levin says for customers to actually be available to buy those products more practitioners need to be certified. At the time this story was published about 1,000 patients were approved to buy medical marijuana in the state.

“The main bottleneck right now is the certification,” said Levin. “The growers have plenty of product, they’ve been very successful growing and the dispensaries are eager to get the product to sell, but that in between step, the companies that are supposed to be certifying the product is having technical difficulties and that’s why we don’t have any product out yet.”

If you’re interested in medical marijuana and want to avoid any complications, Levin says the first step to take should be talking to a trusted family doctor.

“My recommendation would be to have your own private physician either do it or refer you to someone you know and trust like you would with any specialist,” said Levin.

Levin expects the first products to be available for purchase in early 2023. It can’t get here quick enough for Tommy Goldman who just wants relief for his pain.

“I’m going to be happy when I get it because it’s going to be legal. That’s I all I want, for it to be legal,” said Goldman.

Region: Mississippi