Medical Marijuana In Florida
In the elections of November, 2016, a constitutional amendment was passed in Florida to permit the use of medical marijuana by patients suffering from a list of serious medical conditions. The bill passed by a landslide with 71 percent of voters in favor. Amendment 2 superseded a previous law which allowed the use of low-THC cannabis extracts to treat a short list of potentially life-threatening conditions.
The list of “debilitating conditions” treated by medical marijuana in Florida was broadened to include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, or any other which a physician believes constitutes a “debilitating medical condition of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above” for which the medical use of marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks.
Let’s take a more detailed look at the history of Florida cannabis laws and the requirements for taking part in the program.
Florida Marijuana Laws History
Several attempts were made to legalize medical marijuana between 1978 and 2014 with no success. Then, in 2014, Florida legislators passed the “Charlotte’s Web” bill, a measure which allowed the use of low-THC, high-CBD extracts for the purpose of treating a short list of serious conditions such as intractable epilepsy. Lawmakers expanded the program in 2016 to permit terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana, with no restrictions on THC levels. The first dispensary of low-THC cannabis didn’t open until July of 2016.
That same year, advocates were able to get the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” onto the November 2014 ballot. The bill fell just 2.5% short of the 60% of yes votes needed to pass the constitutional amendment.
The next year, in 2015, a number of municipalities including Miami-Dade County, Tampa, Key West, and Orlando began allowing officers to cite adults found in possession of marijuana rather than arrest them.
Things began to change in 2016 when Amendment 2 passed with a popular vote of 71%. The legislation established a full-blown medical marijuana program. Then, in special session, the senate passed bill SB8A which created strict regulations that applied to Amendment 2, such as making it illegal to purchase dried flower and to grow cannabis at home.
In 2017, the Florida Legislature passed a law to prevent patients from using smokable marijuana. That same year, two bills were introduced to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee “temporarily postponed” review of the bills.
Recently, 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] form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their certified physicians.” The Department of Health has since appealed the decision. Judge Gievers ruled that, under the state’s constitution, patients have the right to smoke medical marijuana in private.
Florida Recreational Marijuana Laws
Amendment 2 did not change Florida’s drug possession laws. The possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. Possession of more than 20 grams of is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Sale or delivery of marijuana is a felony. If perpetrated within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified area it is punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
However, as mentioned above, some Florida municipalities have opted to essentially decriminalize personal use of marijuana. Orlando, for example, allows police officers to write citations rather than arresting offenders. For the possession of 20 grams of cannabis or less, an officer can choose to write a citation with a $100 fine for first-time offenders, or $200 for a second offense. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $500 and have to appear in court.
In certain jurisdictions, payment of the citation constitutes admission of guilt and can still result in a criminal record.
Although Miami-Dade County, Tampa, Key West, and Orlando have decriminalized personal recreational use, many other municipalities still consider possession of marijuana an arrestable offense.
When is recreational marijuana likely to become legal in Florida? Some experts and advocates are predicting that a recreational marijuana referendum will appear on the state ballot in 2022.
Qualifying Conditions For a Florida Medical Marijuana Card
In order to take part in Florida’s medical marijuana program, a patient must qualify and be approved by a physician.
The program is limited to patients with any of the following conditions:
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
- Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above
- Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition
Other Debilitating Conditions That Have Qualified Florida Patients include:
- Back Pain
- Cachexia ( Wasting Syndrome)
- Cyclical Vomiting
- Hepatitis C
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (with chronic abdominal pain)
- Lyme Disease
- Muscle Spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Severe & Chronic Pain
- Severe Nausea
- Sickle Cell Anemia
At this time, until the smoking issue is worked out, patients are allowed to purchase and use only oils (vape or oral drops), tinctures, capsules, patches, and topicals. Home delivery is also available. Unless they have $50 million and a cultivation license, patients cannot grow their own medical marijuana.
How To Get a Medical Marijuana Card In Florida
To become a medical marijuana patient in Florida, residents must obtain medical records from their primary care physician which show that they qualify for the program, and make an appointment with a doctor that is certified by the state for the dispensing of medical marijuana cards.
Certified physicians usually charge anywhere from $200-$300 for an examination.
In order to qualify, a patient must not only have one of the approved conditions, but show that they have tried other treatments that haven’t worked.
All patients are required to register with the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use. Once a certified physician approves you, your application is sent to the Florida Department of Health along with a check for $75. The state then sends the patient a medical cannabis card which must be presented in order to purchase medical cannabis products. This process can take up to a month to complete.
The card is good for 1 year, however every 30 weeks, you need to be re-examined by a certified physician in order to be renewed.
Get Certified for Medical Marijuana In Florida
Florida residents needing a medical marijuana card can click here to connect with a certified recommending doctor. Simply fill out the MMJ patient registration form and a physician or clinic representative will contact you.
Where To Purchase Medical Marijuana In Florida
Florida medical marijuana patients can purchase medicine from registered marijuana dispensaries officially known as Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs).
As of June, 2018, five companies have been licensed to operate dispensaries. There are 37 dispensaries across the state, mostly in large cities along coastal areas.
Many dispensaries will deliver medicine to authorized patients across the state.
Products are available in a variety of “strains,” each with its own particular combination of cannabinoids and other active compounds such as terpenes.
Currently, patients are only allowed to purchase extracts, oils (vape or sublingual), tinctures, capsules, patches, and topicals, with rules on edibles upcoming.
Medical cannabis products generally cost between $35 and $115. The average purchase is between $150 and $250.
Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, banks are reluctant to do business with dispensaries, therefore sales are generally cash-only. Credit cards are usually not accepted. However, many MMTC’s accept CanPay, which is a prepaid debit style card.