Four more states – California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – voted to legalize cannabis for adults. This means more than 40 million people currently live in a state where marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older.
California passed legislation – not a constitutional amendment – that gives people convicted of certain cannabis crimes an opportunity to be released from prison or jail. This is a huge victory for civil rights advocates.
We have had dozens of inquiries today about the future of medical cannabis, what a patient needs to do and how to be in the cannabis business.
Here is what we know right now.
Florida does not honor reciprocity. Your qualifying condition in another state does not automatically qualify you for the Florida program. It is not legal to bring medical cannabis from any other state into Florida.
Doctors do not prescribe cannabis, you must have a recommendation from a physician licensed in Florida.
Tuesday, November 8, Florida passed a constitutional amendment that legalized the use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions. The amendment specifically defines a debilitating condition to mean:
“Cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
If you have one of these named disorders and your physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient, you have a right to marijuana under Amendment 2. However, it is unlikely that legal distribution under Amendment 2 will begin before the legislature ends in June.
The newly passed constitutional amendment authorizes the Department of Health to take up to nine (9) months to issue patient identification cards.
In addition to issuing patient identification cards, it is up to the Department of Health to promulgate regulations within six (6) months governing the qualifications for caregivers, the amounts of cannabis a patient may have, and procedures for the registration of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC’s). The Department of Health must create procedures for the issuance of licenses for the MMTC, testing procedures, record keeping, security standards, labeling, inspecting and safety.
If you’re a patient or love a patient who hopes to use medical cannabis, it would be easy to feel discouraged right now. We are a long way from walking into a shop on the corner, purchasing a variety of labeled, tested and taxed cannabis. Lawyers will debate the application of this amendment for many years to come.
However, Florida does have an existing Compassionate Use program administered by the Department of Health Office of Compassionate Use. It is likely lawmakers will expand upon the existing program to meet the needs of the new patients.
Six organizations are already licensed by the Department of Health and two of them: Trulieve and Surterra Therapeutics, have already begun distributing low THC, high CBD products to patients. The Florida Legislature added full spectrum cannabis products for terminally ill patients during the 2016 session. All of the currently licensed organizations are authorized to grow any type of cannabis. They may only distribute cannabis to patients listed on the Department of Health registry. The type of cannabis they provide is limited to what is recommended by the physician.
Chestnut Hills Tree Farm operating as CHT Medical– Alachua County
San Felasco Nurseries operating as The Green Solution– Alachua County
Hackney Nurseries operating as Trulieve - Gadsden County
Alpha Foliage operating as Surterra Therapeutics– Hillsborough County
Costa Nursery Farms operating as Modern Health Concepts– Miami-Dade County
Knox Nurseries operating as Knox Medical– Orange County
Currently, qualifying conditions for high-CBD, low-THC preparations include frequent and severe spasticity, cancer or seizure disorders and any illness that leaves you with less than a year to live.
In order to become a patient who can legally purchase low-THC, high-CBD products, you must be working with a qualified physician.
While patients with severe spasticity, cancer and seizure disorders are qualified under law, the patient must work with the physician for three-months before they can be recommended low-THC, high-CBD cannabis. Your current doctor can be registered to recommend cannabis. Any doctor in Florida who is licensed under Florida Statute 458 or 459 may register with the Department of Health as a referring physician. Physicians must pass a course on cannabis medicine offered by the FMA (Florida Medical Association) or FOMA (Florida Osteopathic Medicine Association). If you are a doctor and would like to take the course and become registered to recommend cannabis, click here. Or you can forward this link to your personal physician.
For all Florida patients with qualifying conditions, if your current treating physician will not take the course and sign up with the Department of Health, you will likely be required to find another doctor in order to be a qualified patient.
Although the companies are each licensed for a certain region, they are permitted to dispense cannabis throughout the state. The license holders all plan for home delivery as an option for patients. Please note, it is federally illegal to mail cannabis. Trulieve leadership assured us they have a delivery plan that includes state-wide distribution by vehicle with a security plan.
The current license holders must work closely with the Department of Health at every phase of the operations. They must be inspected before receiving permission to cultivate, and meet strict requirements throughout the growth cycle. Further permissions must be granted after the harvest before they can extract.
We do not expect flowers to be sold in stores until after the Department of Health finalizes the rules. Products available now include extracted oils, oral capsules, as well as oil-based vaporizers/refills. The immediate future promises a further variety of products including tinctures, salves and ground flowers in sealed vapor cups for THC rich products.
We encourage patients with a condition listed in Amendment 2 to establish a relationship with a doctor already on the Department of Health’s list. These physicians can add your name to the patient registry, and they have taken some continuing medical education credits in cannabis medicine.
Until the rule making process is complete, patients are still in a legal limbo. Many of our questions have no answers yet. For patients who can't wait for legal dispensaries, if you are arrested, you still have the medical necessity defense. We have written extensively on the Medical Necessity Defense.
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