Since 2014 the Florida Medical Marijuana Program has Changed Drastically
Since 2014 the Florida Medical Marijuana Program has Changed Drastically
Beginning in 2014, qualified patients have been legally able to use a form of regulated medical marijauna in the State of Florida. Since then, things have drastically developed. Once the restrictions that initially prohibited the vast majority of sick patients who could benefit from the symptom relief marijuana were lifted, Florida DocMJ Doctors Marijuana began seeing patients and helping them find a regimen that fits them.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.
The first bill that was set in place to allow a medical marijuana program in the state of Florida was the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.” This act allowed qualified physicians to issue orders to certain patients that allowed them to use marijuana products that contain low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Low-THC cannabis is defined as “a plant of the genus Cannabis the dried flowers of which contain .8 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and more than 10 percent of cannabidiol weight for weight. The definition includes extracted resin and any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such a plant. In order to meet the definition low-THC cannabis must also be dispensed only from a dispensing organization. The term “medical use” is also defined to exclude smoking and the transfer of low-THC cannabis to a person other than the patient for whom it was ordered or that patient’s legal representative. 
Along with the new laws came the creation of the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (MMUR) by the Department of Health and the authorization of growing and dispensing marijuana to five organizations. The MMUR serves as a registry of all qualified patients, including their written orders issued by their qualified physician. Requiring doctors to issue these recommendations rather than prescriptions protects them from any risk under federal law.
Starting on January 1, 2015, the new bill allowed osteopathic and allopathic physicians licensed in Florida to order low-THC cannabis for their patients’ medical use. The bill specified that a qualified physician can only order low-THC marijuana products for patients who are Florida residents, suffer from cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, and have no acceptable alternative treatment options available to them.
If a physician were to order low-THC marijuana for a patient who did not have a qualifying condition, or if a patient were to fraudulently report they had such symptoms, the bill stated that there were to be a first degree misdemeanor issued as a penalty. The Department of Health is required to monitor the registry and all of the patient orders being entered. It watches for practices that could facilitate unlawful distribution or misuse and can take disciplinary action if needed.
The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Amendment 2) in 2016
On November 8, 2016, voters approved the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Amendment 2) during Florida’s general election. This bill required a super-majority vote to pass, meaning it needed at least 60% of voters in order to be added as a constitutional amendment. It ended up passing with a popular vote of 71%.
This bill differed from the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 because it allowed more than just those who were terminally ill to try medical marijuana as a form of relief. Amendment 2 was put in place to alleviate those suffering from medical conditions such as: cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualified medical condition or other debilitating medical conditions comparable to those listed. 
It also differed from the 2014 Act because it improved four key issues from the proposal:
- Doctors are required to receive parental consent from minors: “In order for a physician certification to be issued to a minor, a parent or legal guardian of the minor must consent in writing.”
- The chronic illness that allows a patient to receive medical marijuana is better spelled out, as stating “same kind or class as or comparable to” when defining specific illnesses.
- This bill does not repeal any law that defends “negligence or professional malpractice on the part of a qualified patient, caregiver, physician, MMTC (Medical Marijuana Treatment Center), or its agents or employees.”
- Additional clauses were added to close the “drug-dealer loophole” in that MMTC’s may be limited to how many qualified patients they treat a year.
Under Amendment 2, medical marijuana can be given to the patient if the qualified doctor believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for their patient. Smoking the medication in form of whole flower was not allowed under a statute passed by the Florida State Legislature.
The Passing of Smokable Marijuana
In the spring of 2018, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers heard a case brought by People United for Medical Marijuana and Florida for Care on behalf of two medical patients which challenged the legislature’s attempt to restrict patients’ options and prohibit the use of dried cannabis flower. Judge Grievers ruled that patients “have the right to use the smokable forms of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their certified physicians.”
The following year on March 18th, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed smokable marijuana in Florida into law through the Senate Bill 182.
SB 182 outlined:
- Ending the prohibition on Dispensaries selling marijuana flower by redefining the term “medical use”.
- New requirements by the Florida Department of Health for patients to see their qualified physician in-person for access to smokable marijuana.
- That the ordering physician has to report what other forms of cannabis their patient has tried.
- The requirement of physicians to write a new order for flower every 35 days.
- The prohibition of ordering smokable flower for patients under 18 unless they are terminally ill and has a pediatrician who agrees with smokable marijuana as an effective treatment.
- Limitations on the amount of flower a patient can buy every 35 days to 2.5 ounces.
- The total amount of flower a qualified patient can possess up to 4 ounces.
- The prohibition of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC) from using tobacco or hemp papers in pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes.
If you are curious to see if you or a loved one could benefit from the many relief options medical marijuana offers, take a quick online survey to see if you pre-qualify for your Florida Medical Marijuana Identification Card. If you do, one of our many compassionate and educated physicians that are located conveniently throughout the state will examine you to see if medical marijauana is right for you.