More than 70 percent of Floridians voted in favor of Amendment 2. The new amendment will be a game changer for Florida medical marijuana patients, caregivers and health care professionals. It will revamp the state’s alternative health care laws and massively modernize the very conservative and limiting Florida medical cannabis laws that have been in existence since 2014.
Amendment 2 will ensure much better protection for industry workers, patients, caregivers and physicians. It will also make medical marijuana a realistic and safe treatment option for many people in the state of Florida who, up until now, would not have been eligible for treatment with a cannabis card. Once the new rules are in place, there will be a much wider variety of medical cannabis products, as well as a larger spectrum of strains and strengths, from which to choose. This is all wonderful news for Florida and its inhabitants.
The state is legally required to adopt new medical marijuana laws by July 3, 2017. There will then be a bedding-in period of a few months before the state is obliged to have the new system fully up and running by September 2017.
Despite the landslide majority vote in favor of more liberal Florida MMJ laws and the impending deadline for implementation, there is still heated debate happening within the corridors of power, not to mention homes, cafes and public meeting spaces throughout the state, about the exact nature of the new MMJ laws and the specific details of what the new rules should look like. Many details of the new Florida medical marijuana program have yet to be finalized.
The debate is so heated in Florida because there are conservative in positions of power in the state who are not happy about the adoption of what they regard as laxer drug laws. It is due to these competing factions that much has yet to be decided.
How Much Medical Marijuana Can Patients Get?
Although it is fairly clear that patients will qualify for marijuana treatment with a variety of illnesses such as glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms — similar to other legal MMJ states — it is still not clear what size of prescriptions the law will allow for various conditions. It has yet to be decided how much medical marijuana a patient will be allowed to acquire each day. Will it be left up to the discretion of the patient? Or will there be limits on the amount of herb a person can buy depending on what condition they are suffering from? It is hoped that the Department of Health will decide to allow a flexible amount of medical cannabis to be available and for the patient to decide what they require.
Which Medical Marijuana Products Will Be Available?
What medical marijuana products will be available has also not yet been finalized. It is hoped and expected that a wide range of products — from edibles to oils to aerosols and ointments to fresh and dried bud — will be available from dispensaries. But the exact details of what will be available are still unclear. What is known is that there will be no cap on the amount of THC medical cannabis products sold in the state can contain.
What Are the Zoning Laws?
One particular point of contention that is proving particularly difficult to sort out is the exact details of zoning laws for dispensaries. There will be a large increase in a number of dispensaries opening in the state, and not every citizen or city is happy about having a dispensary in their locality. Many cities and districts, including Miami Beach, have put a temporary freeze on new dispensaries opening in their jurisdictions while they attempt to iron out the issues in a way that pleases as many local residents as possible. This is an issue that urgently needs to be sorted out.
What Qualifies a Person as a Caregiver?
It also remains to be decided exactly what circumstances and conditions will qualify a person to become a caregiver, how many people one person can be a caregiver for, and what exactly being a caregiver will allow a person to do on behalf of the patients they are caring for.
What Will It Cost to Join the Registry?
Another detail that remains undecided is the cost of applying to join the Florida Patient Registry. Joining the registry will be mandatory, but the costs involved remain unclear.
Can You Grow at Home?
Unfortunately, under the new amendment home growing will remain illegal. This puts the Florida medical marijuana program well behind other legal MMJ states such as California and Colorado on this issue. Allowing patients to grow their own herb, just as they like it, would have been a huge step in the right direction. Sadly, this is a step Florida did not take on this occasion. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be a rethink on this particular detail of the state’s medical cannabis program.
What About State vs Federal MMJ Laws?
One last gray area (and this applies to all legal medical marijuana states) is the contradiction between state MMJ laws and federal cannabis law. There is nothing the state itself can do about this issue, but surely, as more and more states vote to legalize medical cannabis, it will become unrealistic and silly for the federal government not to look into changing federal MMJ laws concerning medical weed.
It is an exciting time for Florida. They are joining the medical marijuana party in earnest. Amendment 2 will not be a silver bullet — it will have shortcomings, not allowing home cultivation being an obvious example — but it is a big leap in the right direction. There are a number of steps that still need to be taken and decisions that need to be made before full implementation is possible. Time is running out. Get your skates on Florida!