When Florida’s Amendment 2 passed we knew medical marijuana would not be available to patients right away – however, we do still have hope that the program will roll out relatively quickly and on the schedule that the amendment set up, giving patients access by this fall at the latest. The Department of Health was given the opportunity to rewrite the current regulations in order to accommodate the much larger patient base – but instead their new regulations appear to just be an attempt to fit patients into the existing model.
The proposed rules would keep the current requirements for growers – meaning it would continue to only allow those who already have licenses (and those who may still win licenses through court appeals), while Amendment 2 backers were hoping to see the market open up to new businesses, rather than feeding into the monopoly that exists.
The Florida Department of Health intends to also keep requirements that physicians take an eight hour training course to become certified by the state to recommend medical marijuana – but they would only be able to recommend to patients with any of the listed qualifying conditions. For conditions that are not listed, but may be considered debilitating to a similar degree (as defined in Amendment 2) patients would have to seek approval from the Florida Board of Medicine instead of a physician – which was never something that those who wrote the amendment intended.
“The rule is basically ignoring the text of the constitutional amendment at almost every point of the way,” campaign manager for United for Care Ben Pollara told the Sun Sentinel.
Luckily, these regulations are likely to change between now and when they are finalized – public hearings where anyone can come and comment on the direction the medical marijuana program is going will be held in February in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. In addition to getting opinions from the general public, those looking to enter the industry, patients and activists will also soon be seeing lawmakers’ attempts to “improve” on the law voters passed in November.
“This is not one of those things that is up for interpretation by a court or anyone else,” Pollara said.
It’s unfortunate that the Department of Health is taking such a – in my opinion – lazy approach to getting patients access to the medicine they need. Instead of trying to expand the program with a new approach – one that could help not only patients but the state’s economy as well by creating jobs – they would rather start off by trying to fit possibly hundreds of thousands of people into a system that was only meant to handle thousands, while also ignoring what the voters wanted by referring conditions outside those specifically listed to the Board of Medicine to be approved.
We have to hope that the state’s lawmakers are better prepared to help regulate things in a manner more consistent with the wording of the amendment – and that those in the Department of Health who are working on this actually take what people have to say at these public hearings into account when writing their next draft of regulations. There is less than six months until the state is expected to have regulations in place – until then it could be a bit more of a bumpy road than we had initially expected.