Medical marijuana in Florida could attract tourists looking for relief without breaking the law

Medical pot could boost Florida tourism

TAMPA - Colorado and Washington State are already seeing an influx of mostly younger visitors anxious to light up recreationally without fear of arrest.

But could there be a rush to Florida beaches for those who'd like to try marijuana as medicine without breaking the law?

"I think there could be, but that places a special responsibility and a burden on our clinical care system," said Dr. Jay Wolfson, of the University of South Florida's College of Public Health.

Wolfson sees potential problems with out-of-state patients, some of them elderly and visiting a new doctor to add marijuana to medicines they already take at home.

"The physician is at risk for not being able to follow up with the patient regularly for whom they're responsible clinically," Wolfson said.

Still, hundreds of thousands of Americans are willing to travel to Central and South America and Asia for knee replacement, cosmetic surgery, even bariatric bypass surgeries that cost a fraction of what they'd pay at home.

Florida may not be able to compete on price, but being the first and possibly only southern state to offer marijuana as medicine could be a powerful draw to those in surrounding states.
The group backing the initiative in Florida makes no claims on the economic impact of legal medical marijuana.

"We don't know what the economic impact will be and this is at its core about providing relief and another treatment option to the really sick people in the state of Florida," said Ben Pollara of United for Care, the group promoting the medical marijuana initiative that will appear on the November ballot.

Visit Florida, the state's tourism arm, did not return ABC Action News' request for a comment. Visit Tampa Bay officials said that should the laws change, "they'll be ready as a destination to welcome the additional visitors."

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