During the recent election cycle, Florida residents voted to expand medical marijuana access in their state, with more than 71 per cent of voters in favor of Amendment 2, even though the initiative only needed a 60 per cent “yes” vote to pass.
In 2014, a similar amendment failed when it received just 58 per cent of the vote. While the state’s legislature authorized non-smoked medical marijuana later that year, there were a few issues. The law only gave patients access to low-THC (0.8 per cent or less) cannabis with a greater concentration of CBD, and it was limited to patients with cancer and epilepsy, chronic seizures, or spasms.
With Amendment 2, the law expanded medical marijuana access to patients in Florida with a physician’s certification that they suffer from glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, as well as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and epilepsy.
Licensed physicians can now also recommend cannabis for patients suffering from ailments similar to the ones officially listed. Physician certification can be issued to a qualified minor patient with written consent from their legal guardian or parent. Finally, for terminally ill patients, a new addition to the 2014 law allowing for the use of full-strength medical marijuana will remain in place. However, accommodations for medical marijuana use will not extend to any correctional institution or detention facility.
Amendment 2 also laid out a few other regulations for the state’s new expanded access to medical marijuana. First, all forms of marijuana, including flower, concentrates, edibles, and tinctures are allowed. However, it’s still illegal to operate any vehicle, aircraft, train, or boat while under the influence. Marijuana smoking is also not permitted in public areas, schools, or places of employment. In addition, recreational marijuana and growing marijuana at home remains illegal.
The state’s Department of Health will oversee the regulation of marijuana cultivation and treatment centers, including registration matters and standards for security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection, and safety. The Department will also be responsible for qualifying, registering, and issuing ID cards to patients and their caregivers, who can buy marijuana on the behalf of a patient.
While the new medical marijuana law officially came into effect on January 3, there will be a bit of delay for patients seeking to gain access while all the details are worked out. The Department of Health’s deadline to decide and implement its regulations isn’t until June 2017. The required patient ID cards are to be issued no later than September 3. If the Department doesn’t begin issuing ID cards by this point, the amendment’s text states that “a valid physician certification will serve as a patient identification card in order to allow a person to become a ‘qualifying patient’ until the Department begins issuing identification cards.”
While there are some kinks, Amendment 2 will give an estimated 500,000 or more patients access to medical cannabis.