Florida Legislature finally passes medical marijuana bill
Bill heads to Gov. Scott
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Legislation to enact Florida's medical marijuana constitutional amendment is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
The Senate and House approved the bill during Friday's final day of the special session. The House passed it 108-9 before the Senate voted 29-6.
Both chambers reached agreement on Wednesday that there would be a cap of 25 dispensaries per medical marijuana treatment center and that there wouldn't be a sales tax. The bill still bans smoking despite amendment supporters saying it is written into the language.
The legislation allows patients who suffer chronic pain related to one of 10 qualifying conditions to receive either low-THC cannabis or full strength medical marijuana. The amendment states that laws must be in place by July 3 with those enacted by October.
Here are some highlights of the bill establishing a framework for Florida’s constitutional amendment expanding medical marijuana:
Epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer and terminal conditions were allowed under bills passed in 2014 and 2016. The amendment now includes HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.
PATIENTS & CAREGIVERS
Patients and caregivers must be 21 and over. If a patient is a minor, a caregiver must be certified. Both must also receive an identification card. Advocates still would like to see caregivers not subject to penalties if they have to administer marijuana in the case of an emergency.
Smoking medical marijuana remains prohibited despite public demand. John Morgan, the driving force behind getting the amendment on the ballot last year and passed, said the only place where smoking is banned is in public places and intends to sue.
Besides vaping, medical marijuana products can be sold as edibles (as long as it is a food product and does not market or appeal to children), oils, sprays or tinctures. Vaping cartridges, especially whole-flower products, must be in a tamper-proof container.
Patients may receive an order for three 70-day supplies before having to visit a doctor again to get re-examined. A physician must recertify a patient at least once every 30 weeks instead of once every 90 days.
NO WAITING PERIOD
The requirement that a patient be in the care of a certified doctor for 90 days has been removed. The waiting period, which was a part of the last two bills signed by Gov. Rick Scott, came under more scrutiny when cannabis was extended last year to terminal patients. Also, the certification course for doctors has been reduced from eight hours to two.
Seasonal residents --those who reside in Florida at least 31 straight days each year, maintain temporary residence and are registered to vote or pay income tax in another state-- will be eligible to receive medical marijuana.
MORE TREATMENT CENTERS
There will be 10 additional medical marijuana treatment centers by October. Five will be awarded by August 1 to nurseries that were narrowly defeated when the original distributors were selected in December 2015. Of the other five that will be awarded by October, one will go to a group of black farmers with citrus growers given preference to two others. By the end of the year there could be as many as 19 treatment centers.
NEW LICENSE REQUIREMENTS RELAXED
Instead of a nursery needing to be in business for 30 years, any Florida business that has been operating five or more years and has a medical director on staff can file an application.
There is a cap of 25 retail facilities per medical marijuana treatment center but it allows for four more shops per 100,000 patients with that cap subject to expire in 2020. Four more centers will be licensed per 100,000 patients. The state forecasts 472,000 patients in five years.
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