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Florida Marijuana Petition On The Ballot Again — Q & As

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Florida Marijuana Petition Definitely On The Ballot Again

As predicted in previous articles here and here, the United for Care medical marijuana petition in Florida has again collected enough signatures to be on the Florida ballot again in November, 2016.  Since numerous polls confirm that Florida voters now favor access to medical marijuana here by a wide margin, the United for Care petition is expected to pass easily with the requisite 60 percent voter approval. What does this mean? It means that Florida medical marijuana is definitely coming and that Florida marijuana laws will be changing and expanding next year.

Florida Medical Marijuana Laws Set To Expand

Under Florida’s current medical marijuana law, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, the first 5 dispensaries in Florida have just been licensed and should begin growing marijuana in a few short months (with Florida medical marijuana sales to begin, hopefully, as early as September, 2016). See here. However, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act is a very limited Florida medical marijuana law as it severely limits the kinds of patients who can legally buy Florida medical marijuana and limits the total number of Florida dispensaries in the state to five. Under the United for Care Florida marijuana petition (if passed, as expected by Florida voters in November), many more Florida patients would be eligible for medical marijuana in Florida and there would be no upward limit on the number of Florida dispensaries that could be licensed here. Moreover, Florida legislators could not deny qualified Florida patients to medical marijuana here after the vote since the United for Care Florida marijuana petition would make a right to medical marijuana access a constitutional right in Florida. This means that folks will be able to legally buy medical marijuana in Florida (providing that they meet the other requirements of Florida marijuana laws). The drive for the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida continues.

Florida Medical Marijuana Petition Q & As

Q: What kind of medical marijuana be legal when/if the United for Care medical marijuana petition passes in Florida?

A: In contrast to current Florida marijuana law, the United for Care medical marijuana petition would allow those who qualify (by having certain illnesses) to be prescribed, and to use, even euphoric strains of medical marijuana in Florida.

Q: Who will be eligible to be prescribed medical marijuana under the United for Care petition?

A: Under the terms of the United for Care medical marijuana petition, only “Qualifying Patients” are eligible for medical marijuana prescriptions in Florida. The petition’s definition is specific:

(10) “Qualifying patient” means a person who has been diagnosed to have a debilitating medical condition, who has a physician certification and a valid qualifying patient identification card. If the Department does not begin issuing identification cards within nine (9) months after the effective date of this section, then a valid physician certification will serve as a patient identification card in order to allow a person to become a “qualifying patient” until the Department begins issuing identification cards.

The Florida legislature is expected to pass various laws implementing the United for Care medical marijuana petition sometime in 2017 and the Florida Department of Health will also have to issue regulations on the petition. In the meantime, however, we can discern from the text of the United for Care petition (which will be engrafted into the Florida Constitution if it passes) that a “Qualified Patient” will only be eligible is he or she: 1) has a medical condition that qualifies as a “debilitating condition”; 2) an authorized Florida physician has so certified this; and, 3) the patient has been issued  a “valid qualifying patient identification card.” This means that Qualifying Patients will need to have a Florida marijuana card (unlike current Florida law, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which does not).

Q: What kinds of medical conditions are covered by, or included in, the United for Care Florida marijuana petition?

A:  The United for Care Florida marijuana petition is fairly specific, it defines covered “Debilitating Medical Conditions” thusly:

(1) “Debilitating Medical Condition” means 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.

This means that only patients who have the kind of disease listed in the petition or something similar are likely to be included. But, again, we must wait to see how the Florida legislature and the Florida Department of Health actually implements this provision. The fact that the Florida marijuana petition also includes any “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class or comparable to those enumerated” means that the provision is broader, and will include more, than just those illnesses specifically listed.

Q: How does one obtain the required Florida marijuana card?

A: A licensed Florida doctor would have to examine the patient and determine the following:

(9) “Physician certification” means a written document signed by a physician, stating that in the physician’s professional opinion, the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition, that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for the patient, and for how long the physician recommends the medical use of marijuana for the patient. A physician certification may only be provided after the physician has conducted a physical examination and a full assessment of the medical history of the patient. In order for a physician certification to be issued to a minor, a parent or legal guardian of the minor must consent in writing.

Hence, only a patient or the patient’s legal guardian can obtain a physician certification for medical marijuana in Florida.

Q: How will a “Qualifying Patient” go about getting a Florida marijuana identification card?

A: The exact process will be determined after the Florida legislature and the Florida Department of Health issue implementing laws and regulations. However, it can be surmised that a Qualifying Patient will have to apply for a Florida marijuana card after receiving the required physician certification that they are qualified to receive, possess, and use medical marijuana in Florida. Right now, the Florida marijuana petition defines the required “identification card” as  a “document issued by the Department [of Health] that identifies a qualifying patient or a caregiver.”

Q: Where to legally buy Florida medical marijuana?

A: A Qualifying Patient (as described above) will be able to legally buy Florida medical marijuana at any of the lawfully licensed “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers” that are sure to go into business once Florida marijuana laws change and more widespread use of medical marijuana is allowed. In the meantime, one can only legally buy Florida medical marijuana at the 5 Florida dispensaries issued the appropriate licenses under current Florida marijuana law, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.

Conclusion: Florida Medical Marijuana Laws Are Expanding

As noted in previous articles, it is widely expected that the United for Care Florida marijuana petition will pass with the required 60% of votes necessary. Although the Florida marijuana petition is very specific, the exact details of implementation will not be known exactly until the Florida legislature passes the necessary laws to enforce the new Florida marijuana constitutional provision and the Florida Department of Health issues the necessary regulations to guide those who will be legally prescribing, dispensing, and using medical marijuana in Florida.

 

 

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