Newly sworn-in Governor Ron DeSantis officially ended the statewide ban on smokable forms of medical cannabis in Florida, making good on the promise he made to patients.
On Monday, March 18, 2019, Gov. DeSantis signed Senate Bill 182 “Medical Use of Marijuana” into law. In doing so, medical cannabis patients are finally legally permitted to smoke dried cannabis flower if their doctor recommends that specific method of administration. Previously, it was illegal for patients to smoke their cannabis medication, according to the law.
“Over 70 percent of Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016,” Gov. DeSantis said in a statement. “I thank my colleagues in the Legislature for working with me to ensure the will of the voters is upheld. Now that we have honored our duty to find a legislative solution, I have honored my commitment and filed a joint motion to dismiss the state’s appeal and to vacate the lower court decision which had held the prior law to be unconstitutional.”
When Florida voters approved Measure 2 in 2016, effectively legalizing the use of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, they voted on legislation which permitted smoking. Before the medical cannabis program was up and running, however, legislators had made some edits against the will of the people. After the edited version was signed into law by then Governor Rick Scott, only forms of medical cannabis that could be ingested or vaporized, like edibles and concentrates, were allowed.
After two years of waiting, the patients of Florida have finally been granted access to smokeable forms of medical cannabis, but they still cannot go out and purchase it right away. Before patients can purchase dried flower from the dispensary, the Department of Health has to establish the guidelines for doctors to follow in making the recommendation for patients to smoke it as well as the regulations for dispensaries to follow when selling it.
Medical marijuana patients over the age of 18 who wish to smoke will be issued an informed consent form detailing the potential harms of inhaling smoke. Patients will only be allowed to purchase a maximum of 2.5 ounces of dried flower every 35 days.
It will remain illegal for patients under the age of 18 to smoke it, unless he or she is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has a recommendation from a doctor. Smoking in public will also remain illegal in the state.
It is unclear whether the wait for smokable forms will be weeks or months, but at least there is progress in the right direction.
Which conditions qualify for medical cannabis in Florida?
The following conditions are listed on the state’s website as qualifying a patient to apply for a medical marijuana card:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above
A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition
The loss suffered last election day by medical marijuana proponents in Florida was an especially tough one because it was such a close race. Amendment 2, the medical marijuana measure, was approved by nearly 58 percent of voters. That is the majority vote, so it would have been approved in most states. In Florida, however, 60 percent of the vote is required to pass a state constitutional amendment.
After that loss, John Morgan, the medical malpractice attorney that was leading and funding the campaign, promised that he would try again, and as of Thursday, the “war” has officially started.
Wednesday night, Morgan announced his plans to submit the new ballot language to the Secretary of State’s office Thursday morning, via his twitter account.
Thursday, it was confirmed that the new ballot language was submitted for approval, and the team has their eyes on the 2016 general election. According to Morgan, the new verbiage is almost the same, except that the so-called “loopholes” that the anti-medical marijuana campaign used to fear monger Florida residents last October have been closed.
The medical marijuana opposition campaign, Drug Free Florida, which was funded almost exclusively by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson of Nevada, was the brainchildren behind the famous advertisement (shown below) that claimed marijuana edibles would be the new date rape drug if Amendment 2 was approved. The wording of the new proposal will not allow the opposition as much creative freedom in 2016.
The United for Care organization website states that the new online petition will launch in the next few weeks. They have to start from scratch since the wording of the new amendment is slightly different. The new amendment was just submitted to the Secretary of State’s office for approval. Once the verbiage is approved, United for Care will begin petitioning for 68,314 signatures from registered Florida voters. Those signatures must be collected in order to turn the ballot language into the Florida Supreme Court for review and validation.
Once the Florida Supreme Court approves, activists will begin petitioning again. The second round of collection must total at least 683,140 signatures, which must be collected within one year in order to qualify for the 2016 general election ballot. The deadline is February 1, 2016.
The differences between the 2014 and 2016 ballot languages are outlined below, courtesy of the Miami Herald:
PROPOSED 2016 AMENDMENT vs. 2014 AMENDMENT
2016 Title: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions
2014 Title: Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions
2016: Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
2014: Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
2016: Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.
2014: Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.
2016: A physician shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law solely for issuing a physician certification with reasonable care to a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition in compliance with this section.
2014: A physician licensed in Florida shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law for issuing a physician certification to a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition in a manner consistent with this section.
2016: “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.
2014: (1) “Debilitating Medical Condition” means cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.
2016: “Marijuana” has the meaning given cannabis in Section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes (2014), and, in addition, “Low-THC cannabis” as defined in Section 381.986(1)(b), Florida Statutes (2014), shall also be included in the meaning of the term “marijuana.”
2014: “Marijuana” has the meaning given cannabis in Section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes (2013).
2016: “Medical use” means the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of an amount of marijuana not in conflict with Department rules, or of related supplies by a qualifying patient or caregiver for use by the caregiver’s designated qualifying patient for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.
2014: “Medical use” means the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of marijuana or related supplies by a qualifying patient or personal caregiver for use by a qualifying patient for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.
2016: “Caregiver” means a person who is at least twenty-one (21) years old who has agreed to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana and has qualified for and obtained a caregiver identification card issued by the Department. The Department may limit the number of qualifying patients a caregiver may assist at one time and the number of caregivers that a qualifying patient may have at one time.
Caregivers are prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for medical use by the qualifying patient.
2014: “Personal caregiver” means a person who is at least twenty-one (21) years old who has agreed to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana and has a caregiver identification card issued by the Department. A personal caregiver may assist no more than five (5) qualifying patients at one time. An employee of a hospice provider, nursing, or medical facility may serve as a personal caregiver to more than five (5) qualifying patients as permitted by the Department. Personal caregivers are prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for the personal, medical use by the qualifying patient.
2016: “Physician” means a person who is licensed to practice medicine in Florida.
2014: “Physician” means a physician who is licensed in Florida.
2016: In order for a physician certification to be issued to a minor, a parent or legal guardian of the minor must consent in writing.
2014: No such language
2016: Nothing in this section allows for a violation of any law other than for conduct in compliance with the provisions of this section.
2014: No such language
2016: Nothing in this section shall affect or repeal laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production, or sale of marijuana.
2014: Nothing in this section shall affect laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production or sale of marijuana.
2016: Nothing in this section authorizes the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.
2014: Nothing in this section authorizes the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.
2016: Nothing in this section shall permit the operation of any vehicle, aircraft, train or boat while under the influence of marijuana.
2014: Nothing in this section allows the operation of a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana.
2016: Nothing in this section requires the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.
2014: Nothing in this law section requires the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.
2016: Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.
2014: Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.
2016: Nothing in this section shall require any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana.
2014: Nothing in this section shall require any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana.
2016: Nothing in this section shall affect or repeal laws relating to negligence or professional malpractice on the part of a qualified patient, caregiver, physician, MMTC, or its agents or employees.
2014: No such language
2016: Procedures for the issuance and annual renewal of qualifying patient identification cards to people with physician certifications and standards for renewal of such identification cards. Before issuing an identification card to a minor, the Department must receive written consent from the minor’s parent or legal guardian, in addition to the physician certification.
2014: Procedures for the issuance of qualifying patient identification cards to people with physician certifications, and standards for the renewal of such identification cards.
2016: Procedures establishing qualifications and standards for caregivers, including conducting appropriate background checks, and procedures for the issuance and annual renewal of caregiver identification cards.
2014: Procedures for the issuance of personal caregiver identification cards to persons qualified to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana, and standards for the renewal of such identification cards.
There has been a lot of hysteria lately concerning Florida’s Amendment 2 which would legalize medicinal marijuana for Floridians. Critics, opponents, and multiple news outlets have recently cited polls showing a lack of support for the medical marijuana amendment, but how credible is this polling data?
The highly cited Gravis Marketing says that support for the bill is only at 50% but some say the company has a questionable history. The Democratic Underground had this to say about Gravis Marketing:
“Ultimately, we believe that Gravis Marketing is the last of a long line of shady enterprises pursued by Doug Kaplan and a merry band of small-time hustlers, a band marked by the sketchy personal pasts of its individual members and a constant pursuit of the fast, and almost invariably, dishonest buck.”
One might also question who incentivized Gravis Marketing to conduct these polls. After all, nobody works for free and their advertising slogan reads, “Giving you the campaign responses and results you want.” With millions of dollars flowing in to the state from anti-marijuana billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the poll results can most certainly be bought.
Aside from over-citing a less than reputable polling firm, a closer look at the numbers shows that support for medical marijuana is polling more strongly than opponents would like to suggest.
The vote needs 60% approval by Floridians for the constitutional amendment to take place. We looked at a collection of 16 polls pertaining to the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida conducted over the last 12 months. Aggregate polling data shows that 69% of Floridians support the initiative while only 24% oppose it. Just over 6% of voters remain undecided.
Headlines stating that “Amendment 2 Is Done” are overstating the implications of each new poll. A look at the aggregate data from the last two months alone reveals that likely voters are supporting the amendment 72% to 25%.Averaging the poll results without weighting numbers based on sample size does not add up, even though some people want you to believe it does.
Whether Amendment 2 passes in Florida will be determined after November 4. In the meantime, do not believe the media hype that the bill has been defeated just yet. There are many tools for opponents of marijuana policy reform to use in order to discourage supporters of the amendment, and fooling them into thinking their votes will not count next week, is at the top of the list.
In less than one month, Floridians will have the right to vote in support of or against medical marijuana in the sunshine state. Amendment 2 will only pass if the super-majority, 60%, vote in favor. A public poll of 471 likely voters conducted by the University of North Florida between September 29 and October 8, 2014, resulted in 67% saying they would vote “yes” in support of Amendment 2.
This means that for the next three weeks, both sides of the vote will be spending an obscene amount of money to sway voters.
The pro-marijuana group, People United for Medical Marijuana (United for Care), has raised $6.25 million in funding this year. Upwards of $4 million of that was already spent collecting signatures for the amendment to even be on the ballot in November. This group is trying to raise more money now to be able to release a television advertisement campaign to combat the one released by the opposition last week.
The anti-medical marijuana committee, Vote No on 2, released a $1.6 million dollar television campaign last week that will strike fear into the hearts of all who view it. The crime-scene investigation style visuals and sound effects used in this advertisement are frightening, no matter what the point is. If the words were replaced with happy thoughts about puppies and rainbows, it would still be scary.
The ad makes many far stretched statements about “loopholes” in Amendment 2. According to the ad, some of these “loopholes” would allow people of any age (including teenagers) to purchase medical marijuana for any condition, whenever they want. One very interesting statement, from the ad, says,
“They don’t call it the drug dealer protection act, but they should.”
This accompanies another completely false statement,
“Its caregiver provision gives legal protection to marijuana dealers.”