Florida medical marijuana advocates received great news recently, as Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill that establishes how patients can qualify and receive cannabis under an amendment to the state’s constitution.
Back in November 2016, 71 percent of Florida voters approved the amendment, which allows Florida medical marijuana patients to purchase either low-TCH cannabis or full-strength medical marijuana to treat chronic pain related to one of 10 qualifying conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Despite voting against the amendment, Scott eventually agreed to sign the bill. And while he issued no statement upon signing it, as the Orlando Sentinel reported, Scott voiced his support for the bill just a few weeks ago. “The constitutional amendment was passed overwhelmingly, and I’m glad the House and Senate were able to come together for a bill that makes sense for our state,” he said.
Per the new law, patients suffering from qualifying conditions can be prescribed marijuana by a doctor. Those doctors, however, must complete two hours of training before they can be certified by the state to authorize such prescriptions. Florida also plans to set up a registry of eligible patients, which doctors will be required to cross-reference before prescribing the drug.
In addition to granting patients access to medical marijuana, the new legislation also allows them to use cannabis pills, edibles, oils, and “vape” pens with a doctor’s approval. It will also allow 10 new companies to become licensed as growers by October 2017, capping the statewide total at 17. (There are seven companies already in operation.) Each license holder is allowed to operate a maximum of 25 dispensaries, and each additional batch of 100,000 new eligible patients will trigger the release of an additional license.
Not all legalization advocates are exactly thrilled with the new law, however, as many say it comes with overly restrictive rules.
For example, prominent Tampa businessman Joe Redner plans to file a lawsuit because the new law prohibits people from growing their own plants. John Morgan, a trial lawyer from Orlando who funded the the amendment’s campaign, has filed a lawsuit because the new law bans the smoking of marijuana.
As the Huffington Post points out, the opposition to smoking brought up during the legislative process centered on questionable research around lung disease and cancer, and comments alluding to it being “an unhealthy habit.” However, the real reason smoking was banned — the HuffPo surmises — is that it’s simply easier to determine if a patient is using a high-THC product by noticing if they are smoking it.
Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith has publicly recommended that Florida be sued over the smoking ban, and while Morgan plans to move forward with such a lawsuit, he recognizes that some progress is, indeed, still progress.
“It’s not perfect,” he told the Miami Herald. “I’m going to sue for the smoking, but I know there are sick people who will see relief starting in July.’’
For now, Florida medical marijuana advocates can take heart that the matter is moving in the right direction.