Medical Marijuana Is Now Available in Florida

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Jeffrey Feiler

In 2014, Florida's Legislature passed HB 1030 approving medical marijuana. Finally, the medication is expected to soon become available. This week the Department of Health informed the Hackney Nursery in Northwest Florida that they are the first of the six approved statewide regional Dispensing Organizations to receive authorization to process and dispense low-THC cannabis. They opened their dispensary facility in Tallahassee for business on Friday. Alpha-Surterra, the Dispensing Organization in the Southwest region of Florida, reportedly have also harvested their medical marijuana plants and are awaiting authorization to dispense. Florida medical marijuana will go through a production process whereby the plant will undergo an extraction process resulting in products such as concentrated oil, tinctures, gel capsules, and vape cartridges.

However, presently there is an absence of qualified patients to obtain the medication. In fact, reportedly, there is only one registered patient in the entire State of Florida. The law permits the physician for patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms to order low-THC medical marijuana. At this point, there are only 15 doctors who have been qualified in the State. Patients must join the State's Registry to become qualified. Low-THC marijuana does not have the euphoric effect of getting users "high". The main cannabinoid in the medication is CBD, which has been proven effective in alleviating seizures in children suffering from Intractable Epilepsy.

In 2016, the Legislature passed an additional law, The Right to Try Act, which permits extracts from the entire cannabis plant to be provided to patients with terminal conditions expected to live less than one year. The products, which will contain THC, should become available next month. High-THC medications have been proven effective for patients particularly suffering from pain.

On November 8, 2016, during the upcoming general Presidential election, voters will again consider the proposed constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana in Florida. The new Amendment 2 has eliminated the perceived "loopholes" opponents complained about in the 2014 version. Early polling suggests that this year, the Amendment will pass. It narrowly missed reaching the 60% mark needed last time.
The most compelling question is how the Florida Legislature, which is undeniably very unfriendly to medical marijuana, will implement the requirements of Amendment 2. The Legislature will meet for their regular session in March-May of 2017. Numerous Bills are presently being formulated. United for Care, the organization that is the proponent of Amendment 2, has created a proposed set of Rules and Regulations through a "Blue Ribbon Committee", which are currently being tweaked. Their proposal would replace the politically motivated, monopolistic, Five (Six) Dispensing Organizations with a larger "free market" system. With separate licenses awarded to Retailers, Growers, Producers, Testing Laboratories, and Transportation, there clearly will be greater competition resulting in higher quality, more efficient, and less expensive medical marijuana made available to a wider range of patients. Another possibility would be an expansion of the number of Dispensing Organizations from 5 to 25, or 50, or perhaps even 100 statewide. Also, the "30 Year Nurseryman" requirement would have to be liberalized to include qualified nurseries and farmers, also to include minority entrepreneurs as the current system is, by its nature, exclusionary.

In time, when clinical trials (presently allowed in more enlightened nations but not the United States) identify how specific synergies of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other substances in the cannabis plant interact with the CB 1 & 2 receptors found in the human brain, nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system, then a wider range of effective medications are expected to be produced. There has been talk about the DEA rescheduling marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, which would allow for medical testing. There is supposed to be an announcement from the DEA this month as to their position. Many feel marijuana prohibition needs to end and the substance be de-scheduled rather than rescheduled. Schedule 1 substances are those having no medical value and are considered most dangerous. In a perfect example of hypocrisy, the US Government actually provides medical marijuana to patients each month in limited instances, and with 23 States having medical marijuana laws, it is difficult to comprehend how the substance can be deemed to have no medical value.

Many Floridians are excited about becoming involved in the marijuana industry. They have observed the success seen in Colorado, which has been the model for a system which works for everyone, from entrepreneur, to patient, and consumer. The State has benefitted from the tax revenues. In 2009, Colorado was on the verge of closing schools due to their budget deficit. In 2015, sales reached nearly one billion dollars, resulting in getting the State out of the red and into the black. In 2016, revenues will assuredly exceed one billion dollars. Florida, being the third most populous State with over 20 million residents, is projected to potentially have a four billion dollar industry IF a free market system is permitted. For more information about Florida medical marijuana, contact Feiler Marijuana Law.

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