Local and national news reports abound about the medical marijuana amendment that Florida voters will decide on in the upcoming 2014 mid-term elections. What they often fail to mention is that a form of medical marijuana became legal in June when the governor signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 into law. Effective January 1, this law, which is separate and apart from the amendment under consideration by voters, legalizes cannabis with a THC content of .08 percent or less for very specific medical uses.
Understanding the Rigid Florida Low-THC Marijuana Laws
Inhaling smoke or getting intoxicated from low-THC marijuana will not be issues for Florida patients. Under the new marijuana laws, the product, known as “Charlotte’s Web” (named after a Colorado girl who received some epileptic seizure relief with the substance), will be delivered as an oil extract. Patients will typically place the extract under their tongues, rather than smoke it; however, the use of a vaporizer is excluded from the definition of “smoking” under the law.
Of course, the strength of the substance is only one of many regulatory requirements. These marijuana laws hold doctors, patients, growers and distributors to strict standards, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Certain types of physicians can prescribe. Only physicians licensed under specific chapters of the Florida statutes can prescribe low-THC marijuana — and only after successfully completing an approved 8-hour course.
- Patient qualification is limited based on medical conditions and other requirements. Only permanent Florida residents can receive prescriptions and must be added to the compassionate use registry to qualify for low-THC marijuana treatment. They must suffer from specific conditions, such as cancer, ALS or illnesses that produce chronic seizures. Patients younger than 18 are subject to additional requirements, which include the need to obtain a second physician’s opinion.
- Doctors must try traditional treatment first. Low-THC marijuana can only be prescribed after other treatments prove unsuccessful.
- The law requires treatment plans and regular updates: Doctors must maintain patient treatment plans as part of the prescription process. They must also update and submit the plans quarterly to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy so they can perform research on safety and efficacy of the substance.
- The number of growers and dispensers is limited: The Florida low-THC marijuana laws permit the designation of only five dispensing organizations within the state. These organizations must have a history of at least 30-continuous years operating as registered nurseries, employ a physician as a medical director, pass background checks and comply with countless financial and certification requirements.
Medical Professionals and Dispensaries Should Seek Skilled Legal Support
As with any new and complex law, anyone who wants to be involved in any capacity of the low-THC medical marijuana field should consult with a knowledgeable medical marijuana attorney. We expect the details of the law to continue evolving. Any errors complying with Florida marijuana laws — or treading on certain federal controlled substance laws — can be costly to dispensaries or medical practitioners. It is essential to remain on top of the law to help ensure success before venturing into this fledgling area of the law. For knowledgeable legal support, call National Cannabis Law Firm at 844-WEED-LAW.