Prior to Amendment 2 legalizing medical marijuana in the state of Florida, the Sunshine state already had a small medical program. The new law vastly expands the program and the patient pool, and it’s causing headaches for lawmakers, advocates, and people pining to be a part of the industry.
A young Florida woman took the podium at the state legislature to express her concerns about the monopoly of licensees, as it stands. She said the few companies in operation couldn’t possibly service the entire state. Instead, she wants to see more cultivators and dispensaries.
“There are young people in Florida who want to work in this business, it’s unfair to shut us out,” she said at the state’s workshop on implementing Amendment 2.
Prior to the approval of Amendment 2 in November 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) signed a limited bill in June of 2014 that allowed for the use of medical cannabis only by those who either had cancer, muscle spasms, or exhibit epilepsy-like seizures.
The state decided six growers would suffice for the limited bill, but now their few thousand patients will undoubtedly increase exponentially with the new law.
More conditions, more problems
There are new issues lawmakers must face, so they brought in some experts and the public to comment on the future of medical marijuana at the legislative branch’s workshop on the implementation of Amendment 2 early in December.
The state’s senatorial committee on health policy heard from Ben Pollara, of United for Care, who was heavily involved in the writing of the amendment, as well as Jodi James, of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, and Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, one of the few licensed medical marijuana centers already in operation.
Some of the highlights from concerned Floridians:
- “Don’t let Florida become California”
- “…but medicine isn’t smoked”
- “Marijuana is a gateway drug”
Teresa Miller, founder of No2pot.org, is terrified that her sunny coast will become a scene pulled straight out of Reefer Madness. “We’ll go from sunny coasts with white sands and family vacationers to hazy, skunky smelling, pot-filled beaches with lazy people,” she said with the weary look of doom in her eyes.
Meanwhile, the doctors and experts in the field are concerning themselves with the process going forward.
One doctor told the state senators about the tedious and time-consuming forms that must be reported to the University of Florida on each patient. “There’s no streamlined form,” he lamented, “and it will turn off doctors from becoming a part of the program.”
Another huge hurdle for patients is the three-month relationship development time required between a patient and their prescribing doctor. “It just doesn’t work for terminal patients,” said one medical marijuana expert on the panel.
Florida requires patients to have a relationship with a registered cannabis doctor for three months prior to being prescribed medical marijuana. Issues arise when patients find out that none of their consulting doctors have registered to prescribe the new medicine, forcing them to find one that is registered, and wait for three months in pain.
From the high-level workshop, it’s clear that most lawmakers don’t want to normalize cannabis use. However, there are decisions that need to be made on the medical side.
For now, it’s going to be crucial that Florida decide on whether they will build the new law upon the limited 2014 medical marijuana program, or implement a new structure.