Medical Marijuana Edibles In Florida: What Does The New Law Mean?

Florida residents can finally purchase medical marijuana edibles thanks to new legislation in the state. The Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use announced in August of 2020 that medical marijuana dispensaries can start to sell medical marijuana edibles in the state.

While you may be celebrating, some things need to be understood about this new option. Here’s what the Florida law about medical marijuana says and all the important information you need to know about how to take advantage of this option.

What Are Medical Marijuana Edibles?

Medical marijuana edibles are a line of THC-infused food products, capsules, and lozenges. They produce long-lasting and safe effects for those who utilize medical marijuana to treat medical conditions. They promote euphoria and relaxation and increase the appetite as they also work to help quell anxiety and fatigue.

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Image by Jeff W on Unsplash: Are edibles legal in Florida? They are now!

Florida Medical Marijuana Edibles Law

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state of Florida for several years, but legalizing edibles was delayed. This was done in order for the OMMU to determine product standards that are safe for medical marijuana users.

The edibles sold in the state of Florida must comply with the statutes that help to ensure safe food production. Plus, each edible is required to have the THC symbol placed prominently on its packaging.

A few other regulations required of medical marijuana edibles under the law include:

  • No more than 10 milligrams of THC in a single serving edible
  • No more than 200 milligrams of THC in multiple serving edibles
  • THC potency total must be printed clearly on the label and it may not vary by more than 15% of the potency from the certificate of analysis
  • All edible portions must be stamped with the THC content universal symbol unless the portion size is too small to accommodate it

The law also clarifies that medical marijuana edibles cannot contain color additives that are unnatural. That means only vegetable or fruit colorings may be used.

Medical Marijuana Edibles In Florida: Product Shapes Limited

Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of children, THC-infused edibles must adhere to stringent appearance guidelines. THC gummies can only be in the shape of a diamond, oval, square, parallelogram, rectangle, circle, or triangle. The packaging must also not attract attention, which means no bright, fun packaging can be used. It simply cannot look like candy for children in any way.

Florida MMJ Laws: What Types of Edibles Can Be Purchased in Florida?

Edibles in every category are now regulated in Florida by Standards for Production of Edibles under the OMMU. There are no real surprises here, since companies that produce medical marijuana edibles in Florida can now develop these types of products:

  • Chocolates
  • Lozenges
  • Baked goods
  • Gelatins

The only caveat is that chocolate-based edibles cannot contain fruit, marshmallows, caramel, nuts, nougat, honey, or any other type of specialty filling. It can be formulated only with carob, milk, or dark chocolate.

How Edibles Are Different Than Smoking Medical Marijuana

For many who cannot tolerate smoking cannabis, edibles offer a convenient, safe, and easy way to get a dosage of THC to help manage medical conditions. The main way that eating THC differs from smoking it is that it can take a while to feel the effects of an edible. This is due to the fact that the edible must pass through the digestive system and be absorbed, which simply takes longer than taking in through the lungs or skin.

In general, the effects of edibles last for about five to six hours, but this differs from person to person. How much THC you consume has a direct impact on how long the effects last. That’s why it’s always recommended that, if you’re new to edibles, you start slow and work your way up to a dose that works for you. This allows you to avoid uncomfortable effects that are more intense and last longer than you want.

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Image by Margo Amala on Unsplash: Medical marijuana edibles in Florida come in all varieties.

Get Your Florida MMJ Card

To take advantage of the new edibles available in Florida, you need an MMJ card from a qualified and state-certified physician. Aside from having a doctor qualify your medical condition, you must also produce proof of your residency in the state. Then you can enjoy access to many different MMJ products.

Featured image by Herbadea Berlin on Unsplash

7 Reasons Why The MMJ Market In Florida Is Booming During Coronavirus

A lot of businesses have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic that’s swept across the country. Closures ranging from restaurants and movie theaters to gyms and stadiums have all resulted in business downturn and profit losses.

But there’s one business that has actually grown during the lockdown period. The medical marijuana (MMJ) market in some places in the US has actually expanded considerably. In Florida, for example, the government has been able to fully support the MMJ market by still allowing patients to apply for MMJ cards and keeping MMJ dispensaries up and running.

Here are seven reasons why the MMJ market in Florida is booming during coronavirus.

1. People are spending more time at home

Most states in the US have experienced at least some kind of stay-at-home order or forced quarantine. Millions of people found themselves out of work – either by losing their jobs or being furloughed. That means that the amount of home/leisure time many people have has increased significantly.

More time at home means individuals can use their MMJ products more frequently, particularly if they aren’t going to work. There’s just more time and freedom to use MMJ products while stuck at home.

2. MMJ dispensaries have stayed open

Unlike a lot of other businesses that shut down during lockdown, dispensaries have been deemed “essential businesses”.

This means that being able to buy MMJ in Florida is considered a necessity, and that patients have been able to get access to their MMJ products despite the other local closures.

 

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Image by Add Weed on Unsplash: MMJ patients still have access to cannabis products in Florida during the pandemic.

3. Dispensaries are delivering

Because MMJ dispensaries have remained open, many locations have offered delivery options or curbside pickup for their customers.

These special services mean that people who rely on their MMJ products for health reasons don’t have to worry about not being able to get what they need during the pandemic.

4. Stimulus checks might make MMJ more affordable

More and more Americans have seen their stimulus checks arriving, which means they might have a little more money to spend on the MMJ products that are essential for their health.

Having a little more income might help with MMJ patients who were worried about going without their cannabis during this stressful time.

5. There’s more anxiety during the pandemic

Most Americans have been experiencing an increase in anxiety because of the uncertain nature of COVID-19 and its effects.

Folks who have MMJ cards are potentially spending more money on MMJ products that can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and make them feel a little calmer.

6. People are relying more on MMJ for treatments

While it’s still difficult for some people to make it to in-person offices for medical treatment, they can turn to MMJ products instead to treat their symptoms. For example, if a patient typically ventures out to an acupuncturist for help with their chronic pain, they might have needed to stop those appointments while everyone has been on lockdown.

However, they can count on using MMJ products to still treat their pain until they can resume acupuncture sessions in the future. Having MMJ products on hand can mean a reduction in symptoms.

7. There have been studies suggesting that cannabis might treat coronavirus

While the connection between cannabis and coronavirus is still fairly new and uncertain, there has been a study that suggested marijuana might be able to prevent or help treat COVID-19.

Hearing these stories on the news means that people might be purchasing more MMJ products in the hope that they might help with the virus as well.

 

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Image by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash: The MMJ market in Florida is thriving during the coronavirus.

How to get MMJ in Florida

Apply for an MMJ card in Florida by going to the state’s website or through the MMJRecs site. A physician will need to determine that you meet the eligibility requirements: that is, being a permanent resident of the state of Florida and having a qualifying medical condition.

Qualifying conditions can include (but are not limited to):

  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Additional diagnoses such as anxiety, depression, and migraines might also qualify you for an MMJ card.

After it’s been determined that you have a medical condition that qualifies, the physician will forward their recommendation to the Florida Department of Health. You’ll be required to pay a state-required fee of $75 online and complete an application. You’ll then be approved within 7–21 business days and can purchase your MMJ products right away.

Take advantage of the booming MMJ market in Florida by getting your MMJ card now!

Featured image by Jorge Vasconez on Unsplash

Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Florida: The Steps That Need to Be Taken

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.

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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 around medical marijuana.

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?

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The only thing known is there will be no cap on the amount of THC medical cannabis products sold in the state can contain.

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!

The Difference Between California and Florida MMJ Laws

On Nov. 8, Florida voters chose to legalize medical marijuana, following in the footsteps of California, Washington, Maine and even Alaska, where MMJ has been legal since 1998. In fact, medical marijuana has been legalized in 29 states, with the majority of MMJ laws passing in the past five years. Florida finds itself in the middle of legalization, but the heartening news for supporters is that the bill, known as Amendment 2, was passed with 71 percent of the votes, which, in political terms, is huge.

There’s still a ways to go, though, and it’ll be a while before patients in the Sunshine State are able to avail of legal medical marijuana. Although MMJ has technically been legal since January 2017 and around 200 doctors in Florida are legally qualified to prescribe it, it’s only available by presenting a government-issued ID card, which must be prescribed to patients by September 2017. That’s a long wait, and there are many potential legal challenges and appeals by opponents that can clog up the works in the meantime. The Florida legislature and Department of Health are still hammering out the exact rules and regulations regarding that will govern the industry, leaving patients in an uncomfortable gray area.

Fortunately, the precedent for full legalization is in place. In 2014, Florida legalized small quantities of low-strength MMJ for very specific severe illnesses and only after patients had been seeing their doctor for at least three months. So citizens can be hopeful that the full legalization will pass through without too much trouble, even if it takes a little while to roll out the plans. With 71 percent of the votes, there can be no doubt that the people of Florida have spoken. To go against that will would amount to political suicide, even for those staunchly opposed to MMJ legalization.

CA vs FL: Qualifying Conditions

MMJ - Marijuana plant

California was the first state to introduce MMJ laws, under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

When people think of MMJ laws, the first state that probably comes to mind is California. It was the first state to introduce MMJ laws, under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which means it’s been pioneering the legalization of the drug for an astonishing 21 years now.

There is a large range of traditional qualifying illnesses that enable a patient to avail of MMJ in California, including nausea, chronic pain and migraines, but there is also a clause that allows physicians who are licensed to practice in California to prescribe MMJ for debilitating illnesses at their own discretion. Subsequently, physicians have recommended medical marijuana for an even larger number of conditions, including as insomnia or depression.

This will likely not be the case in Florida, where physicians will be limited to what conditions for which they can prescribe MMJ. As it stands, only severely debilitating illnesses qualify a patient for MMJ.

CA vs FL: Possession Amounts

Another large point of contention for the new Florida law is possession amounts. California is very liberal with their possession laws. Under Proposition 215, patients are entitled to carry whatever amount of MMJ they deem necessary to treat their condition. This comes with a caveat, however; if a person is found to be carrying obviously excessive quantities of marijuana, they can be arrested or they can be fined for exceeding local MMJ laws.

Under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which passed in January 2016, patients in California are permitted to grow their own MMJ in plots up to 100 square feet. This extends to 500 square feet for primary caregivers and/or physicians with fewer than five patients.

MMJ - Golden Gate bridge

California is very liberal with their possession laws.

In Florida, however, the limits of possession have yet to be determined, but it is certain that patients will have to acquire their medicine through state-licensed dispensaries with home cultivation off the table. Florida wants to keep a keen eye on everyone involved with MMJ, at least at the beginning of its introduction.

By way of contrast, California doesn’t even require its patients to register for an ID card, making it very difficult for the government to keep tabs on everyone using MMJ. Opponents of MMJ in Florida point to California’s lax policies and subsequent experiences as negative and regard their liberal introduction of the MMJ laws as a testing ground for subsequent states.

Federal MMJ Laws vs State MMJ Laws

Under federal law, any kind of marijuana possession is a crime. This led to a confusing gray area in California, where no one was sure whose legal jurisdiction should be upheld. The compromise was reached in 2002 when it was decided that each county and city should decide on their own. The result of this is a confusing web of crisscrossing MMJ laws, leaving some areas of California inundated with dispensaries while others are almost completely MMJ-free.

Florida would do well to learn from California’s successes and mistakes when it comes to implementing its own MMJ laws, hopefully making the introduction of medical marijuana a triumph for both the people and the state as a whole.

5 California MMJ Dispensaries We’d Like to See Set Up in Florida

As of Nov. 8, 2016, Florida voters elected to follow in the footsteps of their Cali cousins and legalize medical marijuana. The bill, titled Amendment 2, was voted through with an overwhelming majority (at least in political terms) of 71 percent, indicating widespread approval for a law that supporters have been aggressively trying to pass for the past three years. It was a significant victory for the pro-legalization side; however, as with most controversial political movements, it does come with a few teething problems.

The major hurdle, at least immediately, is the fact that MMJ won’t be legally available in Florida until June 3, 2017. This is largely due to a holdup with MMJ cards, which will be legally required to obtain MMJ. Although medical marijuana became formally legal in the state in January 2017, patients will have to wait until June to get their hands on the all-important card. There’s a lot that could go wrong between now and then, with many different creases to smooth out in regards to the how and where of distribution.

Looking ahead with an ever-optimistic outlook, we’ve chosen five MMJ dispensaries that are already a hit in California and that we hope will make the cross-country trek to Florida in the not too distant future!

California has been pretty progressive in their legitimization of MMJ, and more recently, marijuana in general. There are top-quality dispensaries up and down the state, and as MMJ becomes more and more accepted, they will only become more effective and efficient. Florida would do well to follow their example, start implementing some policies and making room for MMJ dispensaries that have been successful on the West Coast.

Harborside

MMJ - Cannabis Seedling Marijuana

With more than 200,000 registered patients, Harborside is one of the most popular and significant MMJ dispensaries in the U.S.

The popular Harborside dispensary can currently be found in two locations in California: Oakland and San Jose. It was founded 11 years ago by a fellow named Steve DeAngelo and has been growing stronger ever since. With more than 200,000 registered patients, Harborside is one of the most popular and significant MMJ dispensaries in the U.S. It’s pretty forward thinking, too. Harborside was the first of its kind to support educating the elderly, war veterans and severely ill children. With that kind of track record, it would be more than welcome to set up shop in Florida!

Granny Purps

Renowned for its warm, welcoming atmosphere and family-style management, Granny Purps is a popular dispensary located in Santa Cruz. It’s been in business for more than seven years and has accumulated more than 23,000 patients on their books. Despite the success, it hasn’t lost its personal touch, and it treats each of its patients like an old friend. Florida could certainly do with its homely touch when MMJ kicks off on the East Coast.

The Green Cross

The Green Cross (we see what you did there) serves sunny San Francisco with some top-quality MMJ. It opened its doors in 2004, kicking off with a storefront in the affluent Noe Valley neighborhood. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength and now runs a new storefront in the Excelsior District. The Green Cross was one of the first dispensaries to introduce a delivery service, and it has a reputation for being socially minded, especially in the areas they operate in. They offer patient counseling and caregiving services and strive to employ local residents. It’s this attention to detail and caring attitude that have given The Green Cross its stellar reputation in the local community and beyond.

A Green Alternative Medical Marijuana Dispensary

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Have your MMJ discreetly delivered to your door with A Green Alternative’s highly efficient delivery service.

A Green Alternative is a little different from the others on this list because it is a nonprofit organization. It exists to help its patients through a number of debilitating diseases, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and arthritis. It operates out of San Diego and serves much of Southern California. You can visit them in person for an evaluation or have your MMJ discreetly delivered to your door with its highly efficient delivery service. Florida is going to need a few of these nonprofit clinics if it hopes to fully integrate MMJ into its society.

The Apothecarium

Another successful dispensary operating out of San Francisco, the Apothecarium not only has an awesome name but it is also a stylish addition to the new wave of dispensaries popping up along the West Coast. It offers a wide spectrum of medical options for their patients, including flowers, edibles, concentrates and topicals. You can pick it up in their fancy premises in the Castro District or register for home delivery by becoming a member. All you need is your valid doctor’s recommendation and a government-issued ID, and you’re good to go. The forward-thinking Apothecarium also offers reward schemes to loyal patients as well as discounts to seniors and veterans.

All in all, there’s a wide range of choices available to California MMJ patients with dispensaries convenient to every major city and suiting all styles. We look forward to Florida incorporating the same diversity and eventually growing into the same varied and valued community that can be found on the West Coast.

Will Florida Legalize Medical Marijuana to the Same Extent as California?

The results of the U.S. presidential election overshadowed the results of a few very significant votes: the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, Massachusetts and Nevada. Earlier in the night on Nov. 8, 2016, Florida voters (who played a major role in the presidential election, too) passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, which was, in fact, the first victory scored by the pro-legalization side on a critical night in America. It took the people of Florida some serious legwork to make it to the legalization stage, but will they follow their West Coast allies in making medical marijuana available to the same extent?

This serious legwork should not be underestimated. The pro-legalization side in the Sunshine State has had a serious fight on their hands for the past few years, even to reach the point they’re at now. Unlike California, where it’s possible to avail of medical marijuana with a medical marijuana card, the situation in Florida is a little thornier. The vote brought to the table this past November was one of the briefest legalization laws ever passed in America. From start to finish, it only takes up five pages. It’s titled Amendment 2, and although you may think that the brevity of the law makes it clear and concise, it actually provides more problems than solutions.

It essentially means there are a lot of details left to iron out and many debates to be had over the intricacies of the bill. And it’s already had some teething problems since its birth. Although the law was accepted in November, it wasn’t actually passed until Jan. 3, 2017. And it’s not even fully legal yet.

Although medical marijuana is legal in spirit in Florida, Amendment 2 specifically states that patients must obtain a letter of certification from a physician and a state-issued, valid medical marijuana card. Fair enough. The problem lies in that fact that these required ID cards are not available to citizens and won’t be until at least June 2017.

Fortunately, there is a mechanism in place that states that the Florida Department of Health must finalize its medical marijuana regulations by June 3, 2017. So with a bit of luck, there won’t be too much dillydallying.

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According to Amendment 2, the Florida Department of Health is responsible for overseeing the implementation and regulation of medical marijuana.

The question, then, is what can go wrong in that time? The introduction and management of the state’s new MMJ laws will be overseen by two key people: Florida’s Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Celeste Philip and Gov. Rick Scott. Scott is the man in charge, but Philip runs the Florida Department of Health, which, according to Amendment 2, is responsible for overseeing the implementation and regulation of MMJ. For Scott’s part, he opposed medical marijuana in 2014 but has had little to say in recent months about Amendment 2 and its implications.

That could be because he’s playing to the gallery. About 71 percent of Florida’s voters were in favor of legalizing MMJ, and Scott could potentially make himself very unpopular very quickly if he pushes back against the will of his people. So it’s clear to all involved that this is a crucial time in the quest to legalize MMJ in Florida. The Senate is preparing its medical marijuana plan, and it remains to be seen exactly what routes and decisions will affect it. The issues on the table are varied and intricate. The most controversial ones comprise who should be considered eligible for MMJ treatment and how many licenses should be given out to marijuana growers.

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California has been a kind of trailblazer in many respects on the issue of MMJ, and it’s great to see other states following their lead.

It remains to be seen whether Florida will embrace MMJ laws to the same extent as California. Two main features of California’s laws have yet to be discussed in relation to the Sunshine State, as they’re regarded as too liberal to be introduced immediately. The first is that California has no limits on possession of MMJ, whereas Florida requires that patients have a physician’s recommendation before they acquire MMJ from state-licensed dispensaries. California also allows patients to cultivate their own marijuana at home. In Florida’s case, this is not allowed to any degree.

California has been a kind of trailblazer in many respects on the issue of MMJ, and it’s great to see other states following their lead. Even though Florida has a fight on their hands with a good few issues to smooth over, the fact that Amendment 2 was supported overwhelmingly by the people should provide a clear path to legalizing MMJ across the board. Although it remains to be seen if Florida will be as welcoming to the treatment as their partners on the West Coast, the good news is that the first few key steps have been made successfully. Only time will tell how Florida implements the legalization of medical marijuana and when exactly it’ll be freely available to patients.

Why Florida’s Medical Marijuana Amendment Took So Long

On Nov. 8, 2016, with 71 percent of the vote, Florida residents overwhelmingly voted to legalize medical marijuana. Florida joins 28 other states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing the drug since California got the ball rolling back in 1996. But why did it take the Sunshine State so long to reach a ruling on medical marijuana that the Golden State reached 20 years ago?

Even though medical marijuana has been used to treat a vast number of ailments dating back to China in 2737 B.C., the American outlook on the drug has fluctuated numerous times throughout the United States’ history.

Throughout the 18th and 19th century, marijuana was used in the U.S. for medicinal purposes only be outlawed in the year 1914. Since then, politicians and U.S. citizens alike have been in constant battle regarding marijuana rights. The swinging ’60s were just that. A relaxed attitude on marijuana continued long into the 1970s. It wasn’t until the infamous war on drugs initiated by President Ronald Reagan at the start of the 1980s that attitudes toward marijuana soured and the incarceration rate rose exponentially.

For a number of years following California’s legalization of medical marijuana, Alaska was the only red state to legalize the drug for medical use. In the early 2000s, an increasing number of both Democrat and Republican states started to pay attention to the reported medicinal benefits of marijuana and voted to legalize the drug accordingly.

Upon the passing of Florida’s Amendment 2, many expressed surprise that it took such a long time to come to fruition — with Florida lawmakers trying and failing to do something similar two years previous. Back in 2014, an identically named Amendment 2 found itself on Florida ballots on voting day. If passed, it would have allowed the cultivation, purchase and possession of medical marijuana.

The History of Amendment 2

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Medical marijuana has faced an uphill battle in Florida.

The 2014 amendment failed to pass, gathering just 57.6 percent of the vote (with a 60 percent supermajority required for constitutional amendments). This ballot entry had been a long time coming but faced tough opposition from both more conservative members of the public along with several organizations, such as Drug Free Florida, as well as multiple noteworthy politicians.

For the 2014 amendment to make its way onto the ballot, a minimum of 683,149 valid signatures was required by the February 1, 2014, deadline. In August 2013, signatures had already reached 110,000, triggering a ruling by the Supreme Court of Florida. It was later approved for ballot Jan. 27, 2014. The inevitable rocky road for medical marijuana proved too much for the ballot, yet an earlier poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 88 percent of Florida’s voters supported legalization.

With significant contention from politicians, such as Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Jeb Bush — who prior to the 2014 vote stated in regards to Florida’s family-friendly reputation, “allowing large-scale marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts” — and the ultimate failing of the bill, medical marijuana faced another uphill battle.

Amendment 2, Round 2

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An indisputable shift in outlooks toward medical marijuana was a key component to the 2016 passing of Amendment 2 in Florida.

Following the 2014 disappointment, a further initiative by the same name was established and, once again, was sponsored by the United for Care organization for the 2016 ballot. In the weeks leading up the general election, election officials of Florida’s Broward County omitted Amendment 2 from some of the mail-in ballots, which led to a lawsuit from the pro-marijuana legalization firm NORML but was eventually dismissed.

Nevertheless, the amendment passed Nov. 8, 2016, with 71.3 percent of the vote, thwarting efforts to kill the amendment by a number of organizations and individuals. An indisputable shift in outlooks toward medical marijuana was a key component to the result, but success was also found due to four significant differences from the 2014 amendment:

• Parental consent is required for doctors to treat minors.
• There is an improved definition of the chronic illnesses that allow patients to receive treatment.
• The bill does not repeal any preexisting laws involving negligence or malpractice.
• Clauses were inserted to more effectively close the “drug-dealer” loophole.

With researchers estimating that Florida’s medical marijuana industry will be worth upwards of $1.5 billion by 2020, medical marijuana is quite literally having its moment in the sun.

“With this historic vote, we can expect similar programs acknowledging the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis begin to take hold in the southeastern region of the United States,” stated NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano.

Although many are reveling in the 2016 result, there are several hurdles yet to conquer. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been one of the principle opponents of marijuana throughout his career, and many are concerned about how his attitudes may affect state laws.

Florida, specifically, now faces severe cost concerns, too. In February 2017, medical marijuana in its purified form cost a staggering $240 per gram, forcing users to continue to buy off the black market for as little as $15 per gram.

It’s been a long and arduous journey for medical marijuana in Florida. Although further obstacles are certain to occur, the passing of Amendment 2 indicates a brighter future for those seeking medical marijuana as an alternative form of medicine.

What the New Bills in the House and Senate Mean for Medical Marijuana in Florida

In November 2016, Florida voters approved Amendment 2, which took effect in January 2017. The controversial amendment formed part of the Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative and was designed to extend the rights of patients, allowing for more potent strains of medical marijuana in Florida to become available and to be used in the treatment of a wider variety of medical conditions.

However, since this amendment has passed, and with just one month to go in the session, Florida lawmakers remain at odds as to how to carry out and put into practice the new amendment. Senate and House members disagree on the finer details of how to expand access to the drug, from licensing additional distributors to cover the increase in demand to requiring patients to be seen by the same doctor for at least three months prior to receiving their prescription.

What Does Amendment 2 Mean for Medical Marijuana In Florida?

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Amendment 2 means higher-strength strains of medical marijuana will be allowed in Florida.

Under Amendment 2, medical marijuana use will expand beyond the limited prescription of low-strength strains allowed under the 2014 law. The new legislation also expands the list of ailments that qualify for a medical marijuana prescription from cancer, epilepsy and chronic muscle spasms to include post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and potentially other chronic conditions.

It is still yet to be determined whether the new amendment will expand the rights of patients to choose how they would like to ingest their medication. Currently, patients are only allowed topical lotions with vaping being permitted only in the cases of terminally ill patients. This means that smoking, consuming edibles (brownies, gummies, lollipops etc.) and taking tinctures are still illegal with or without a legal prescription.

What Bills Concerning Medical Marijuana in Florida Are Being Debated?

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Follow SB 406 and HB 1397 to keep tabs on medical marijuana in Florida.

There are two major bills at play: Senate Bill 406, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, is viewed as more permissive and has drawn support from advocates in the medical marijuana community. House Bill 1397, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, has been criticized for being overly restrictive and is heavily backed by the Drug Free America Foundation.

What Do These Bills Aim To Achieve?

SB 406 would eliminate the current requirement that states that patients are required to be under a specific doctor’s care for at least three months prior to receiving a prescription for medical marijuana in Florida. HB 1397 would keep such restrictions in place, something that the medical marijuana community claims will outprice many of the patients who could benefit from the prescription.

Doctors are already experiencing a significant influx of new patients eager to qualify for medical marijuana prescriptions. As of now, there are currently seven dispensaries licensed to sell medical marijuana in Florida. SB 406 would immediately expand the number of licenses issued to medical marijuana distributors in the state to allow for the rapid increase in demand. HB 1397 would first require that more 250,000 patients sign up for medical marijuana in Florida before expanding the pool by an additional five businesses. This pool would continue to increase when sign-ups reach 350,000; 400,000; and every 100,000 patients thereafter.

SB 406 would also establish a coalition for medical marijuana research through Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute and would require that an independent laboratory test all medical marijuana for quality and potency before it is made available to patients. Given the federal government’s previous troubles in producing medical-grade marijuana for patients, these last amendments have received a warm welcome by the medical marijuana community.

What Will Happen If Lawmakers Can’t Agree?

Amendment 2 states that the new legislation for medical marijuana in Florida must be adopted by the state by June 3, 2017, at the latest. If the Senate and House can’t agree on a workable bill by the end of the session May 5, then the health department will be required to issue the regulation on its own. This would make the new legislation much more vulnerable in terms of various legal challenges and would ostensibly leave the issue in the hands of the courts.

Stay tuned for further news on medical marijuana in Florida and what the new legislation will mean for patients’ right to access, conditions that will qualify for use of medical marijuana, different ways to dose with MMJ legally, and the different strains that will become available and how best to use them. In the meantime, if you’re curious about medical marijuana, its benefits and the rights of patients in other areas of the country, then check out the other articles on our extensive blog.

 

Will Medical Marijuana in Florida be a Good Thing for Patients

There is a new understanding and acceptance of the massive health benefits of medical marijuana has taken place in the United States over the past decade or so. People around the country are catching onto the fact that this gloriously healthy herb can be of enormous help to patients who suffer from all sorts of physical and psychological ailments.

In 2014, Florida joined in on the action, albeit a bit sheepishly. The state allowed the medicinal herb to be used very sparingly and only in very specific cases. In the rare cases where medical cannabis use was allowed, the strain had to be very low-THC, and the weed could not be smoked. No fun!

But luckily for MMJ-interested Floridians, the good people of the Sunshine State decided by a large majority to upgrade their medical marijuana laws when they voted on the issue in November 2016. More than 70 percent of Florida voters decided to pass Amendment 2 and, in so doing, bring their medical cannabis laws firmly into the 21st century.

What Is Amendment 2?

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Amendment 2 is good for medical marijuana patients and the MMJ industry at large in Florida.

Amendment 2 will change (and greatly improve) the medical cannabis laws in Florida, making it much easier for patients to be prescribed medical cannabis by their local physicians. The amendment will protect doctors, patients, caregivers, industry workers and dispensaries from prosecution. It will recognize many more ailments as deserving of treatment with medical marijuana and will also make a much wider variety of strains and strengths of medical cannabis available across the state.

This is all very good news for medical marijuana patients and the MMJ industry at large in Florida. To have less draconian rules and regulations in the state can only be a good thing, freeing up the industry to innovate, grow and provide the best possible service for its customers. Businesses will be able to operate safely, and doctors and patients will be free to work together in finding the best possible treatments that will increase the quality of life of people suffering from a whole host of conditions. The state will reap major financial rewards, and new employment opportunities will be created. It truly is a win-win.

How Can Floridians Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

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A patient will only need a letter from a Florida physician stating that their condition will be helped by treatment with medical marijuana.

Amendment 2 will potentially put Florida at the vanguard of legal MMJ states. It will match most other open-minded states in the reasonableness and sensibleness of its medical marijuana laws. A patient will only need a letter from a Florida physician stating that their condition will be helped by treatment with medical marijuana and that the benefits of such treatment will outweigh any potential costs. A much broader list of medical conditions will qualify a patient for treatment with medical cannabis, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV, Parkinson’s disease and Crohn’s disease.

Caregivers must be 21 years of age or older and must pass a background check. Dispensaries will be allowed to produce and distribute cannabis in a variety of locations all across the state. An extensive variety of marijuana products will be available, such as edibles, oils and sprays. These are all great developments for Florida MMJ patients and the industry.

Unfortunately, patients will not be allowed to grow their own herb, but hopefully, this will be something that the state rethinks in the not-too-distant future.

So a wide variety of high-quality, high-strength medical cannabis products will be available to Florida’s citizens under the new law. Fully legalizing Florida medical marijuana is a wonderful development that stands to improve the quality of life of thousands, if not millions, of people in the state in the coming years.

Why Should You Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

The benefits of medical marijuana use in alternative health care are now well-documented and no longer up for debate. Rafts of studies are showing that MMJ helps with myriad conditions, has strong disease prevention properties and can be a great promoter of overall health. MMJ inhibits tumor growth and even seems to kill cancerous tumor cells while sparing the surrounding healthy cells. This gives MMJ an advantage over conventional chemotherapy, which tends to obliterate all cells in its path.

Cannabis also has strong painkilling properties, calms the minds of people who suffer from chronic anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and shows great potential to improve neurological functioning after a person suffers a stroke. MMJ is is an excellent stimulator of appetite, it reduces nausea and vomiting symptoms, helps alleviate the pain and irritation of glaucoma, calms tense muscles, and reduces spasming. It also seems to control seizures in epileptic patients.

With all these health benefits, it is undoubtedly the case that Floridians will benefit hugely from the introduction of medical marijuana to their sunny state.

Welcome to the party, Florida!

Florida and Medical Marijuana: The New Rules

Florida has allowed access to low-THC, non-smoked medical cannabis as an alternative health care option for patients with cancer or chronic seizures or spasms since 2014. In March 2016, the law was amended to allow access to high-strength medical marijuana for patients with terminal illnesses. But it remained one of the nation’s more conservative and limited medical marijuana programs.

But in November 2016, more than 70 percent of Florida voters cast a vote in favor of Amendment 2, which promises to widely expand Florida’s medical marijuana laws.

Amendment 2 101

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With the passing of Amendment 2, Florida now allows high-strength medical marijuana to be used.

Amendment 2 protects patients, caregivers, doctors, dispensaries and industry staff from prosecution or civil sanction under state law. It will also allow high-strength medical cannabis to be used for a much wider list of medical conditions.

Although Amendment 2 requires the state to adopt the new medical marijuana rules by July 3, 2017, and have them fully operational by September, controversy is still raging. Heated dialogue is ongoing among voters, pressure groups, the Florida legislature, and the Florida Department of Health about what the exact rules and regulations will be within the new system.

What We Don’t Know

Many rules have yet to be written, but there are strict deadlines for finalizing the fine details. Details have yet to finalized about how to issue medical cannabis cards, about prescription amounts for various ailments, and about the specific qualifications caregivers will need. There are also some outstanding issues around zoning laws for the expected increase in the number of dispensaries that will open in the state. Some cities and districts, Miami Beach among them, have put a temporary ban on new dispensaries opening while they decide on their own zoning rules.

These issues must be sorted out by July 3, and the state must begin issuing licenses and ID cards within the following three months.

What is certain is that once the new rules are in place, the medical marijuana industry will be strengthened and the medical cannabis market will be much bigger.

Although the final details are not concrete just yet, we do know a lot about what Florida’s new medical marijuana rules will look like. Here’s what we know already about Amendment 2.

What We Do Know

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Once a person has a doctor’s note, they will then be entitled to obtain an ID card and purchase medical marijuana.

In order to qualify, a patient will need to get a letter from a Florida doctor stating that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and will benefit from using MMJ. Once a person has this doctor’s note, they will then be entitled to obtain an ID card and purchase medical marijuana.

The new rules will allow patients with a much broader range of ailments to qualify for treatment with medical marijuana. Conditions such as AIDS, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, as well as various other physical and psychological conditions with similarly debilitating effects will qualify a patient for medical marijuana use. It will be largely up to the doctor’s discretion, and if he or she believes the patient’s condition is serious and would benefit from MMJ, then the patient will qualify.

In order to become a caregiver, a person will need to be more than 21 years old and will likely need to be submitted to a background check. They will require an ID card from the Florida Department of Health, and there will be a limit on the number of patients they can help.

A physician issuing an MMJ letter will need to examine the patient and explore their medical history. The physician must believe that the benefits of medical marijuana use will outweigh any potential negative side effects for the patient.

Dispensaries (which will be called medical marijuana treatment centers) will need to be registered and regulated by the Florida Department of Health. They will be able to produce and distribute medical cannabis. The Department of Health, in conjunction with local authorities, will determine the number and location of these centers.

It is expected that a wide variety of medical marijuana products, such as edibles, tinctures, aerosols, oils and ointments, will be available from dispensaries. There will not be a cap on the amount of THC allowed in these products.

The Department of Health has yet to determine how much medical marijuana will be an adequate supply, but it is expected that the amount available to patients will be flexible and in accordance with the patient’s self-determined needs.

The new laws do not allow patients in the state to grow their own medical cannabis.

It is important to remember that Amendment 2 will not allow patients to smoke marijuana in public or require employers to allow patients to use MMJ at work. Driving under the influence of cannabis will still be illegal. There will also be the usual contradictions between state and federal law, with MMJ use still illegal at the federal level.

Amendment 2 is an exciting new development, and it promises to be very good for the Florida medical marijuana industry.

Medical Marijuana in Florida: The Story So Far


On Nov. 8, 2016, Florida vote overwhelmingly in favor of the controversial Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, which allows patients diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions to lawfully obtain and use medical marijuana.

Some have argued that, even with this new amendment in place, the rules set by the Florida Department of Health that outline the new regulations for the issuance of identification cards, qualification and standards of caregivers, and rules for the registration of medical marijuana treatment centers are still too restrictive and would make it more difficult for new businesses to enter into the industry.

So what does all this mean, and what rights do patients have? How does one apply for a medical marijuana card in Florida? Can any doctor prescribe it? How long does it take, and where can you access it? The following article aims to answer all these questions and shed some light on what this new amendment will mean for patients, their caregivers and family members, and the public at large.

What Rights Have Changed?

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With the passing of Amendment 2, more people will be able to use medical marijuana in Florida.

The new amendment will allow the use of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions that have been diagnosed by a licensed physician. Back in 2014, the Florida legislature approved the use of low-THC and non-smokable medical marijuana for patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and muscle spasms under the Right To Try Act. Last year, this was expanded to include patients with terminal conditions and allowed them to use stronger strains of MMJ. Under Amendment 2, patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and other similar conditions will now be covered. So, a wider pool of patients will now be allowed access to medical marijuana as a form of treatment, and the MMJ itself will be available at a higher-THC concentration.

How Do You Apply for a Medical Marijuana Card in Florida?

Patients must be at least 18 years of age and be a Florida resident with a valid Florida I.D. to provide proof of residency. If you do not have a Florida I.D., then you can use an out of state I.D., passport or another valid form of photo identification in conjunction with a proof of residency document, such as a bank statement or utility bill. Patients must also obtain legitimate medical records from their primary physician that state they’ve been treated by for at least three months prior to application and that outline their diagnosis and medical history.

All patients will be required to register with the Department of Health — more details on this will follow once the Florida medical marijuana program has been fully implemented.

Finally, patients must also show that they have tried other forms of treatment, without success, and their ordering doctor must determine that the risks of this form of treatment are reasonable in respect to the benefits to the patient.

Can Any Doctor Prescribe It, and How Long Does It Take?

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Florida physicians must complete an eight-hour course and examination before they can prescribe medical marijuana.

To acquire access to medical marijuana in Florida, patients will first need to seek treatment from a licensed physician for least three months before they can validate their prescription. Additionally, the physician must have completed the required eight-hour course and examination. Of the 340 doctors that are already fully licensed, many have reported that they have received an influx of new patients to seeking medical marijuana as a form of treatment. There are currently 1,495 patients registered in the state of Florida, but that number is expected to increase steadily in the coming months. The Office of Compassionate Use, which is tasked with regulating medical marijuana in Florida, has predicted a significant increase in registered physicians within the first quarter of the year to cope with the rising demand.

Where Can You Get You Medical Marijuana?

There are currently seven licensed organizations within Florida, with five already authorized to distribute medical marijuana. At least one more additional license will be granted following a recent settlement made between the Department of Health and two southwest Florida nurseries. Once the patient registry reaches more than 250,000, an additional three licenses will be made available, with one being designated solely to black farmers. The dispensaries currently open are in Tallahassee, Clearwater and Tampa, but according to the Florida League of Cities, 55 cities statewide have put zoning moratoriums in place that either ban or heavily restrict dispensaries from opening. Most of the moratoriums that have been put in place are temporary while the cities and counties await news of the new regulations to come out from the passing of Amendment 2.