04 Feb Understanding Florida’s New Medicinal Cannabis Law

Amendment 2, also known as the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, was overwhelmingly approved by the voters in November, and went into effect on January 3rd of this year. This amendment to the State Constitution expands access to medicinal marijuana, but with several key restrictions; recreational marijuana use is still against the law in the state of Florida.

Many of the specific rules and regulations governing the implementation of Amendment 2 have yet to be worked out. The State Legislature and the Florida Department of Health will be hammering out those details in the coming months. In the meantime, here are some of the significant components of the new law:

  • Only patients suffering from a clearly defined set of debilitating diseases, which includes cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, are eligible for cannabis prescriptions. However, the law also allows licensed physicians to certify patients for medical marijuana use after diagnosing them with “any other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”
  • Only doctors who have gone through an eight-hour training program with the Department of Health (an annual requirement) and have been specifically licensed can approve the drug. Without this certification, a patient’s primary care physician can not prescribe cannabis. A current list of these doctors can be found here.
  • Patients must have been treated by one of these certified doctors for at least 90 days and must first explore all other available treatments for their conditions before medical cannabis can be ordered. Patients are also required to get a second opinion from another physician. A growing number of prospective patients have already begun seeing approved doctors even as the logistical details of the new law are being determined.
  • Amendment 2 makes no changes to the accepted forms of cannabis – oils, tinctures, and capsules – to be used as medicine. The law does not specifically address smokeable marijuana, so it remains unclear if this will be allowed as a method of delivery. As of now, no existing Florida law permits smokeable marijuana for patients.

Before the year is out, a statewide system covering all aspects of cannabis harvesting, licensing, and distribution, as well as doctor and patient registration and identification, should be in place. As a result, patients in need will gain increased access to the medication they seek and standards of both medicinal quality and responsible dispensation will be maintained.