Update on Florida medical marijuana: Department of Health holds public workshops focusing on proposed guidelines
Last update: February 14, 2017
In February, the Florida Department of Health held five public workshops in municipalities across the state, providing an opportunity for the public to voice concerns over the proposed guidelines for implementation of the medical marijuana program established by Amendment 2. Unfortunately, the Department of Health’s proposed guidelines are too restrictive and inconsistent with the overwhelmingly popular Amendment 2, which was approved by 71% of Florida voters in the November 2016 election.
Hundreds of medical marijuana advocates attended the Department’s public hearings and argued that the proposed regulations would restrict access to medical marijuana and would limit the number of prescribing physicians. MPP submitted public comments criticizing the Department’s proposed regulations. You can read our submission here. The Department of Health has until July to draft workable rules and may face additional pressures from the state legislature, which may pass a medical marijuana bill during its session, beginning on March 7, 2017.
Amendment 2 requires the Department of Health to regulate medical marijuana treatment centers, which will cultivate and dispense medical marijuana to qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and have a physician’s certification and a valid identification card. You can read the full text of the amendment here or read MPP’s summary here.
While the Department of Health is trying to curtail Amendment 2, supporters of medical marijuana are hard at work in the state house. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg) recently filed a bill to strengthen the medical marijuana industry by expanding the medical marijuana marketplace. Sen. Brandes’ bill proposes eliminating the cap on the number of medical marijuana treatment centers and establishing four new types of licenses for growing, processing, transporting, and dispensing, as well as detailing a system for attaining medical marijuana ID cards and physician recommendations.
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.
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