Using marijuana for medical purposes is legal in Florida. Legislature first made cannabis use legal in 2014 when the Compassionate Use Act was signed into law. The Act gives cancer and epilepsy sufferers access to cannabis with low levels of THC. In 2016, the scope of the law was broadened to give terminally ill patients access to cannabis of full strength, under the Right to Try Act.
Additionally, Amendment 2 was passed by Florida voters in 2016, with an overwhelming majority. The changes enable a larger cannabis program for medical purposes and came into full effect in January 2017. During the same year, Senate Bill 8A was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott. The changes removed a 90 day waiting period for approval and led to operational guidelines for Amendment 2. The medical marijuana program in Florida is constantly evolving and will continue to grow with time.
The laws only apply to the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Recreational cannabis use remains illegal. Any person found in possession of or consuming marijuana may be subject to a fine or even jail time. Sharing medical marijuana is illegal, even if it is with another qualifying patient.
Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card
A medical marijuana card is a permit given to individuals who may use cannabis for medical purposes. Not all people qualify for a card and patients must go through an application process with a registered physician.
A qualified doctor has gone through comprehensive training related to medical marijuana. Only qualified doctors may recommend marijuana usage, thus, a patient must find a certified doctor for a recommendation.
A patient must make an appointment with a certified physician and see the doctor in person. A medical professional may then recommend the use of medical marijuana and provide the patient with certification, including entrance in the Compassionate Use Registry. The patient must submit a medical marijuana card application and accompanying documents to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
A temporary permit will be sent via email until the permanent ID card is received by the patient. The doctor’s recommendation can then be taken to a licensed dispensary to obtain the required marijuana.
Only Florida residents can register for the Florida Compassionate Use Registry. Part of the application process will be submitting a proof of residence.
A legal representative for the patient or minor must be over the age of 21 years old, have power of attorney, and not be employed at a medical marijuana treatment center. Additionally, the legal representative or caregiver must pass background checks and complete a certification course. The individual must also be assigned to the specific patient in the Compassionate Use Registry.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
Florida has a list of conditions for treatment with medical marijuana, which is updated on a frequent basis. The list is not exhaustive and other conditions may be suitable for medical cannabis treatments if the symptoms are similar to those of conditions on the list.
Some of the conditions that have a positive response to marijuana include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chrohn’s disease
- Chronic nonmalignant pain
- HIV/ AIDS
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
A person with any of these conditions, or similar conditions, does not qualify for medical marijuana use automatically. The correct processes, doctor’s visits and documentation need to be completed for a patient to be entered into the Registry.
Visiting a Clinic
The first step to getting a medical marijuana card is to book an appointment with a doctor. Most physicians require documentation to be submitted before the appointment to ensure that a person may be a compassionate use candidate. Along with the documentation, patients are required to submit passport photos and a government issue ID.
The first visit is approximately an hour in duration and includes completion of the required forms for the State application. The appointment is face to face and cannot take place as a virtual appointment, such as via video chat.
A follow-up visit for a second certification takes place about 4 months after the first appointment. The follow-up ensures the patient’s recommended dosage is correct and provide any additional information. From there on, a doctor’s visit will be mandatory every 6 months to keep the certification up to date.
Paying for the appointment and treatment will be at the patient’s expense. Medical insurance does not cover marijuana as it remains illegal at federal level.
All treatment plans are confidential due to HIPAA privacy standards. Medical records will not be shared without a patient’s written consent. The information is shared with the Office of Compassionate Use to get a patient onto the registry but the office will treat the information as confidential.
Law enforcement may verify a patient’s information with the Health Department. This happens seldom as it will only be required if an officer pulls a person over and presents a medical marijuana ID card.
Recommendation of Medical Cannabis
A physician cannot prescribe the use of medical marijuana to a patient; the doctor can only provide a recommendation. Medical professionals are governed by federal law, which always ranks higher than state laws. Under the Controlled Substances Act, a federal document, medical marijuana is seen as an illegal substance, regardless of a state making it legal.
According to the First Amendment, every person has the right to freedom of speech. A recommendation is seen as freedom of speech and cannot be illegal, even if given by a medical professional. Prescriptions cannot be given for illegal substances, thus a doctor will give a medical marijuana recommendation, including the type of marijuana and dosage for a specific individual, as part of an individual’s freedom of speech.
Purchasing Medical Marijuana
Marijuana can only be purchased from certified Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. These centers are also called dispensaries and provide medical marijuana to registered patients. Some of the dispensaries also have a delivery service for patients.
A marijuana order for a maximum of 70 days can be given at any one time. A patient does not have to purchase the entire order at once. Experimenting with different marijuana strains and products is advisable as it will help a patient to find the right combination. Marijuana for smoking is limited by law and a maximum of 2.5 ounces can be purchased every 35 days. No more than 4 ounces can be in a person’s possession at any time.
The doctor has the final say in the amount of medical marijuana a patient may purchase, as well as the delivery method to the body. Standard delivery methods include inhalation, topical application, smoking, and oral consumption. The doctor will ensure the benefits of the delivery method outweigh any potential side effects.
A patient cannot grow cannabis for medical purposes and must purchase marijuana from a registered dispensary. It is illegal for a person to grow cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medical or recreational purposes. Furthermore, medical marijuana may only be used on private property and not within the line of sight of public.
Picking Up Medication
The patient will need to pick up medical marijuana in person. Alternatively, the patient’s registered caregiver can collect medical marijuana, carry it and help with administration of the medication. The legal guardian of a minor will need to collect the medication for a minor.
The process for caregiver registration and required documentation is constantly evolving and thorough research should be completed to ensure the correct documentation is submitted to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Each state has its own marijuana laws and a patient needs to check state requirements before travelling. There is no guarantee that the Florida license will be applicable in other states, or that a patient can purchase medical marijuana in a different state.
Difference between CBD and THC
Both CBD and THC are cannabis compounds that provide health benefits. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is what most people know as pot and known for creating a high. THC has a bigger psychoactive effect on the body. Cannabidiol (CBD) has less of a psychoactive effect and focuses more on therapeutic benefits.
Marijuana comes in different types and may contain various levels of THC and CBD. The medical condition a patient has can react well to either THC or CBD, depending on the symptoms, and may have a life changing effect on a patient. The specific medical condition will dictate the best marijuana strain for a person to use.
Products with Higher THC
THC has properties as an anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, antioxidant, neuroprotectant, muscle relaxant, and is an anti-spasmodic. Cancer also reacts well to THC treatments and works against the growth of cancer cells.
THC may be recommended for the following conditions
- Appetite stimulation
- Pain Management
- Parkinson’s disease
Products with Higher CBD
CBD is generally considered to counteract a wider range of conditions since it does not cause extreme psychoactive effects. CBD helps aid communication within the endocannabinoid system. The properties of CBD include fighting inflammation, antiemetic, antioxidant anticonvulsant and is an antipsychotic.
The conditions where CBD may be prescribed include:
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain management