Florida Medical Marijuana Program Updates
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 06/22/2017 in News and Updates
Updated on January 30, 2019.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Florida lawmakers recently passed updates to the state’s medical marijuana program. The new legislation puts a constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, into effect. The amendment requires the latest updates to become active by October 2017.
The new legislation provides substantial updates to the state’s 2014 medical marijuana program. Doctors, growers, dispensaries, patients and caregivers are all affected by the new mandates, which include the removal of state sales tax on purchases, the approval of more dispensaries and the smoking ban on medical marijuana.
How the New Guidelines Affect Patients and Providers
Florida’s new medical marijuana guidelines affect all parties involved with medical weed, from patients and doctors to growers and dispensaries. Here’s how it breaks down:
Patients received several benefits with the new legislation, but also some drawbacks. One of the biggest benefits is the law now allows medical marijuana to be prescribed for additional conditions.
Florida’s initial medical weed program was only accessible for terminally ill patients or those with seizures or a “debilitating medical condition.” Because of the program’s updates, patients with the following conditions can now use medical marijuana:
Waiting periods for receiving medical marijuana recommendations have also been removed. Patients previously needed to wait 90 days before they could begin treating their condition with medical cannabis. Medical marijuana prescriptions now include a 70-day supply, as well as two refills.
It’s also free from sales tax, which helps patients and their families save money.
One of the least beneficial pieces of the new legislation is the ban on smoking medical weed. The ban is considered to be a violation of the constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 2016.
Florida’s updated program includes several physician mandates that benefit the overall quality of the state’s medical marijuana program. Doctors, for example, are required to complete a two-hour course. The Florida Medical Association or Florida Osteopathic Medical Association provides the class.
The course can cost up to $500, but it gives doctors an education and overview of prescribing medical marijuana for treatment. It’s essential for patients to have access to physicians who understand how to dose and select marijuana strains, as insufficient doses can leave patients without relief.
Doctors are required to diagnose and confirm a patient has a qualifying condition, such as MS. Diagnoses must happen in person and not through telemedicine methods. Physicians are also responsible for reviewing Florida’s medical marijuana registry. They must check if their patient is listed and add them if needed.
Prescriptions for certain types of patients are also regulated. Two doctors must recommend marijuana for underage patients, for example, while pregnant women may only be prescribed low-THC strains of medical weed.
Financial interest in labs or growers is also prohibited, which is another mandate that works to remove any potential bias or self-serving interests among physicians.
The initial medical marijuana program, which Florida passed in 2014, only allowed seven licensed medical marijuana growers. With the new legislation, the state will add 10 more producers for a total of 17. Additional licenses will be issued as the medical marijuana registry grows. For every 100,000 patients added, four new licenses become available.
Eight of the 10 upcoming growers are mostly pre-determined. Licenses will be given to five past applicants, while another one is reserved for a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association. The state will then give preference to two citrus processing companies, though they’re not guaranteed for approval.
Producers are also responsible for tracking their products from seed to sale and having an independent lab test their medicine.
Florida’s dispensaries and growers work as one entity. Licensed growers must process, transport and sell their medical marijuana directly to patients. Each grower may open and operate 25 dispensaries.
They also have the option of selling their dispensary slots. If a grower, for example, only opens two dispensaries, they’re free to sell the remaining 23. A producer could then legally own more than 25 medical weed dispensaries.
Five additional dispensary slots will be given to each grower for every 100,000 patients added to the medical marijuana registry.
Caregivers may now purchase medical marijuana and administer it to their loved one. The legislation requires caregivers to be at least 21 years of age, as well as Florida residents. They’re also mandated to complete a background check and a $100 training course.
Patients are allowed only one caregiver, who cannot be paid. Multiple caregivers are allowed if the patient is a minor, resides in a hospice facility or has a developmental disability.
Florida’s legislation also provides funds for conducting medical marijuana research at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. The $750,000 donation will create the Coalition for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education, which will oversee and conduct medical marijuana studies.
What the Guidelines Mean for Florida’s Medical Marijuana Future
Florida’s new medical marijuana guidelines offer insight into the state’s future as a provider of medical cannabis. Researching medical weed is a significant milestone, as research has been limited due to state and federal laws. Results from studies can provide a greater understanding of how medical marijuana works in the body.
The state’s new mandates for patients, physicians and caregivers demonstrate Florida’s interest in ensuring doctors and caregivers can’t manipulate the program for personal gain. Allowing more patients access to medical cannabis also signifies a growing understanding that marijuana is a medicine that helps patients find relief.
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