Do I Qualify?

Make an Appointment

Content Hub


Find a Dispensary Read Articles


Applying for your medical marijuana card is easier than ever. Just book an appointment. Talk to a doctor. And get your card. Bing. Bam. Boom.

Marijuana Doctors

Get your medical marijuana card

Cannabis Consultation

One on one with a cannabis coach

Patient Login

Sign in to your Veriheal patient account

Politics, Research

Xanax Over Cannabis? ‘Reefer Madness’ Judge’s Shocking Prescription for Medical Cannabis Patient

Lemetria Whitehurst

by Lemetria Whitehurst

June 22, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Xanax Over Cannabis? ‘Reefer Madness’ Judge’s Shocking Prescription for Medical Cannabis Patient

A recent controversial ruling by Florida Judge Dorothy Vaccaro has caught the attention of medical experts and legal scholars. In a surprising decision, the judge ordered a defendant to abstain from using prescribed medical marijuana during probation and suggested using the prescription drug Xanax as an alternative for treating anxiety.

Background of the Case

The case involved a 21-year-old defendant facing a DUI charge in early 2023. During the court proceedings, she informed Judge Vaccaro that she was using medical marijuana to treat her anxiety. The judge responded by stating that anxiety was not a sufficient reason to use medical marijuana and ordered the defendant to stop using cannabis medicinally as part of her probation. Furthermore, Judge Vaccaro suggested that the defendant consider using Xanax to treat her anxiety and visit a primary care physician for a proper prescription.

Xanax, the brand name for alprazolam, is a medication commonly prescribed to treat anxiety. It belongs to the benzodiazepine class of sedatives, which work by slowing down the central nervous system and decreasing brain activity. However, benzodiazepines can cause various side effects, including hallucinations, paranoia, aggression, and depression. Despite these potential side effects, Judge Vaccaro insisted that the defendant stop using medical cannabis and threatened her with arrest without bond if she continued to use it.

Medical Marijuana in Florida

In 2016, Florida passed a law to legalize medical marijuana following a successful initiative that received over 70% approval from voters. The legislation permits physicians to recommend cannabis for treating a range of severe medical conditions, such as epilepsy, PTSD, cancer, and glaucoma, to name a few. Currently, the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use reports that over 800,000 patients in Florida have met the qualifications to utilize medical cannabis for their treatment needs.

Judicial Circuit’s Response

A spokesperson for the 6th Judicial Circuit, Stephen Thompson, explained that Judge Vaccaro’s intention was simply to present the defendant with other options besides medical marijuana. Thompson pointed out that anxiety does not fall under the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use in Florida. Additionally, he mentioned that it is not uncommon for judges within the 6th Circuit to mandate that defendants avoid using medicinal cannabis during their probation period.

Expert Opinions on the Judge’s Order

Peter Grinspoon, Physician, and Author

Peter Grinspoon, a physician and instructor at Harvard Medical School, criticized the judge’s intervention in the defendant’s medical treatment. He stated that it is “presumptuous, inappropriate, and dangerous” for a judge to make medical decisions in such cases. Grinspoon also pointed out that medical cannabis is generally considered safer than Xanax, with milder side effects and less likelihood of addiction.

Jaggers Keene, Primary Care Physician

Dr. Jaggers Keene, a primary care physician in Largo, Florida, highlighted the potential dangers of Xanax’s side effects, including seizures and thoughts of suicide. He also noted that Xanax combined with alcohol could be fatal, a particularly concerning fact considering this defendant was in court on a drunk driving charge.

Why You Should Get Your Medical Marijuana Card

Veriheal has satisfied millions of patients nationwide by giving them access to these benefits

  • Larger purchase limits
  • Peace of mind
  • Enhanced legal protection
  • Access to higher potency strains
  • Save up to 25% on cannabis purchases
  • Skip the line at the dispensary

Legal Scholars’ Concerns

Bob Jarvis, professor of law at Nova Southeastern University, argued that Judge Vaccaro had erroneously based her decision on the defendant’s age, as Florida’s judicial canons prohibit discrimination for any reason, including age. Charles Geyh, a professor at Indiana University Bloomington’s Maurer School of Law, expressed concern that the judge “trumped the judgment of a physician without gathering all the facts.” Geyh emphasized that judges have a duty to make rulings based on provable facts and not personal preferences.

Expanding Qualifying Conditions: The Need for Greater Inclusivity in Florida’s MMJ Laws

Florida’s medical marijuana laws could be improved by expanding the list of qualifying conditions to accommodate a broader range of patients, such as the defendant in this case, who suffers from anxiety.

Individuals struggling with conditions not recognized by the state may feel compelled to be less than forthcoming about their actual medical needs, fearing that they might be denied access to potentially beneficial treatment. This situation could lead to inadequate care and even exacerbate existing health issues.

By broadening the list of qualifying conditions, Florida could offer a more compassionate and inclusive approach to medical marijuana. That way, patients in genuine need of relief can access appropriate treatment options without fear of being turned away or discriminated against. This expansion would foster trust between patients and healthcare providers and contribute to a more effective and comprehensive healthcare system.

Key Takeaways

The case involving Judge Vaccaro’s controversial decision highlights the importance of dispelling myths and misconceptions about cannabis use, particularly in medicinal treatment. Despite the increasing number of states legalizing medical marijuana and the growing body of research supporting its therapeutic benefits, a lingering stigma surrounds its use. This stigmatization can lead to uninformed decisions, as demonstrated by the judge’s ruling, which ultimately impacts patients who rely on cannabis for their well-being. 

As awareness grows, it is essential to challenge outdated perceptions and ensure that individuals who could benefit from medical marijuana will not be denied access to a potentially life-changing treatment due to unfounded prejudices.

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

Post Your Comments

Get your medical marijuana card today
Sign up in under 5 minutes