Legislative session ends without a medical marijuana implementation bill
Last update: May 9, 2017
Florida’s legislative session ended on May 5, 2017, and a medical marijuana implementation bill failed to pass. The failure to agree hinged on the number of retail locations a licensed medical marijuana establishment could open. On the last day of session, the House amended its proposal (HB 1397) to impose a cap of 100 retail outlets for each of the state’s medical marijuana operators, whereas the Senate had proposed a cap of 10.
The Florida Legislature could call a special session to decide the fate of implementing medical marijuana. While a special session seems unlikely, some politicians, like former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham, are calling for the Legislature to do just that.
Since the Legislature failed to act, the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use will adopt its own regulations for implementation of Amendment 2. Unfortunately, the Department of Health’s proposed guidelines, circulated earlier this year, are too restrictive and inconsistent with the overwhelmingly popular amendment. MPP submitted public comments criticizing the Department’s proposed regulations. You can read our submission here. In the coming days, expect the Department of Health to issue a second set of draft regulations.
Tell the Department of Health to support patient focused, common sense marijuana laws here!
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History of Florida’s medical marijuana law
Prior the passage of Amendment 2, Florida had a flawed law that allowed a limited group of patients to access marijuana that was low in THC (less than 0.8%) and high in CBD. The first dispensary of low-THC cannabis opened in Tallahassee on July 26, 2016. The legislature expanded this law in its 2016 session by passing HB 307, which would have allowed terminally ill patients to access other forms of medical cannabis. A summary of that law is available here.
Decriminalization policies adopted across Florida
Since June 2015, a new trend has taken root across Florida — several cities and counties have passed similar ordinances that give officers the discretion to replace arrests for possession of under 20 grams of marijuana with citations. These jurisdictions include Miami-Dade County, Tampa, Key West, and Orlando.
While this is a positive sign, in some jurisdictions, payment of the citation could still result in a criminal record, and some police departments have said that they will continue to arrest everyone in possession of marijuana, so caution should be exercised. For more information, please see our summary of the measures.
During the 2017 legislative session, State Rep. Guillermo Smith and Sen. Jeff Clements introduced bills that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. By categorizing misdemeanor possession of marijuana as a noncriminal civil violation, these bills could eliminate the severe, disproportionate effects of a criminal offense. If passed, the bills would allow for adults with a “personal use quantity of cannabis” (one ounce or less) to face a civil penalty of no more than $100 or 15 hours of community service. However, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee “temporarily postponed” review of these bills. The bills could return later in the legislative session, but it is unlikely since only a few weeks of the session remain.
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