Article written by Attorney Ron Hertel
The People of Florida have spoken, and they have overwhelmingly voted in favor of amending their State Constitution to allow for the use of medical marijuana: 71% for, 29% against. Florida was one of eight states that voted to legalize marijuana use in one way or another: four for recreational use (CA, ME, MA, NV), and four for medicinal use (FL, AR, MO, ND). In fact, the only marijuana initiative to fail this past Election Day was that of Arizona, to legalize the recreational use of weed, and that vote was quite close (Arizona has already legalized medical use). To date, 28 states and Washington DC have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, and legalization appears to be gaining in momentum nationally.
Each state has its own spin on the production, possession and use of marijuana—many states going so far as to allow adults to fully grow, keep and use weed recreationally—but where does Florida fall on this continuum? Florida has only legalized the use of marijuana for treatment of “Debilitating Medical Conditions”. Specifically speaking, those include:
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, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.
To become a “qualifying patient”, a person will (1) have to first be diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, (2) obtain a physician certification, as well as (3) an identification card from the Department of Health. The physician certification is not a prescription, mind you, as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Rather, the physician must certify that the “medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for the patient,” and the physician must state for how long the use of marijuana is recommended. For a minor to obtain a physician certification, their parent or legal guardian must also consent in writing. Pursuant to the amendment, this process must be up and running within nine months, which is also the deadline by which the Department of Health must begin issuing identification cards to qualifying patients and caregivers.
Nothing in the new amendment will allow for the personal production of marijuana—rather, qualifying patients and caregivers will have to obtain their product from a registered Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC). These MMTCs will be allowed to obtain, cultivate, possess, and process marijuana, including the development of “related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oils or ointments” for use by qualifying patients and possession by caregivers. To date, the Department of Health has not yet set the possession limit (the maximum amount permitted to be possessed); however, such regulations must be put in place within six months.
Since California first passed medical marijuana legislation twenty years ago, most of the nation has followed suit. Only time will tell how Florida regulators decide to limit this new constitutionally protected right, or how federal opponents will respond, but 71% of the Florida electorate has sent a clear message to the opposition, that “Your old road is rapidly aging, Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand, Cause the times they are a-changing.”