It’s been a long, strange trip for medical marijuana in Florida, culminating in Governor Rick Scott signing medical marijuana into law on June 23, 2017. At Medicine Man Technologies, we’ve been watching this situation unfold in Florida ever since voters approved Amendment 2 last year by a vote of 71%. Now, the state’s legislature has officially amended current medical marijuana laws to reflect the ballot measure by passing Senate Bill 8-A and receiving Governor Scott’s signature to seal the deal.
Early Days of Medical Marijuana in Florida
Previously, Florida voters failed to pass a similar medical marijuana amendment in 2014, securing just 58% of the required 60% supermajority vote needed to implement a (state) constitutional amendment.
Following the defeat, the state’s legislature did pass the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which was considered a highly imperfect law. It only granted patients suffering from epilepsy, cancer and medical issues causing ongoing seizures or severe muscle spasms access to low-THC cannabis with 0.8% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol and more than 10% of cannabidiol. It also granted just a limited number of cultivation and distribution licenses, further restricting access. Ultimately, because of its many flaws, medical marijuana operations in the state never truly got off the ground.
Fast forward to early 2016 and the passing of HB 307, which expanded the 2014 law to give terminally ill patients access to full-strength medical marijuana. Again, there were issues such as needing certification from 2 physicians, including one specialist, and at least a 3-month relationship with those doctors.
Florida’s Amendment 2 Hits the Right Notes
During the 2017 November election cycle, the tides turned for medical marijuana in Florida and the constitutional amendment passed with 71% approval. Amendment 2 was far more inclusive, providing either low-THC cannabis or full strength medical marijuana to patients suffering from a wider range of conditions:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic nonmalignant pain
- Comparable conditions to those enumerated
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
Amendment 2 gave the state’s Department of Health the responsibility of regulating medical marijuana cultivation and treatment centers, as well as registering and issuing ID cards to patients and caregivers (who can buy marijuana on the behalf of a patient). The Department was also required to finalize all of their regulations by June 3, 2017, and issue ID cards for medical marijuana in Florida later in the year.
It Takes a Special Session to Pass Senate Bill 8-A
After Amendment 2 passed, the Florida Department of Health released preliminary text for its medical marijuana rules in January of 2017 and held five public hearings to seek feedback from residents. Initial reactions to the proposed regulations were inherently negative, pointing to the Department’s limiting access to the 10 specifically listed medical conditions, but leaving out physician discretion for use in other situations and continuing to limit the number of licensed dispensaries.
Amendment 2 was later addressed by the state’s legislature where the rules were to be finalized during the 2017 session. The legislation, HB 1397, appeared to be on its way to passing but fell apart at the last moment when both chambers could not come to an agreement on how many retail dispensaries could be authorized to operate. It appeared that the rules would be again be left to the Department of Health to finalize in order to meet the deadline.
Fortunately, Governor Scott called for a special session of the legislature to be held in June. While the call was initially made to address issues with the state’s budget, House Speaker Richard Corcoran stated that medical marijuana in Florida would also be included. He was quoted as saying required, “Obviously 71% of the voters have called for something. There should be no reason why we can’t reach agreements and get that done and so my hope is that it will be added to the call.”
During the special session, Senate Bill 8-A was introduced by Senator Bradley (R) and finally passed by both chambers. Governor Scott then signed it into law on June 23, 2017.
Senate Bill 8-A: Highlights of the New Florida Law
One of the most significant features of the passed law is that despite the Department of Health’s initial rules text, it does allow physicians to certify use for patients with chronic pain and ailments comparable to those specifically listed. It also removes the 3-month treatment prerequisite, expands the “45-day supply” rule to a 30-week certification and allows full-strength medical marijuana for certified patients.
The Department of Health will begin issuing licenses for Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers in July, granting the holder the unrestricted ability to cultivate, process, transport and dispense medical cannabis. License holders will also be able to open up to 25 dispensary operations across the state. The law allows for 10 new growers right away, which will more than double the state’s current count of 7. Once patient registration numbers reach 100,000, 4 more MMTC licenses will be made available. This incremental process will then repeat for every 100,000 patients added to the registry.
Consulting to Cultivation, We’re Here to Help
Now that medical marijuana in Florida has been signed into law by Governor Scott, Medicine Man Technologies looks forward to helping individuals and enterprises wanting to enter the market. We offer private consultations, assist with legal cannabis cultivation, offer operations training and so much more.
You can also visit us at these conferences: The Moneyshow in San Francisco, GrowX Detroit, or the MJ Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.