In a special legislative session June 23, Gov. Rick Scott approved a bill that effectively puts into action a state constitutional amendment approving medical marijuana passed by voters in 2016. The measure expands the list of debilitating conditions that could make patients eligible to receive marijuana as a medical treatment. It also increases the number of approved marijuana dispensaries across the state from seven to 17
The bill, which became law Saturday, sets down the framework for how patients can use and access marijuana that 71 percent of voters approved in the Amendment 2 referendum last year.
Under the legislation, Florida residents who can be prescribed marijuana include those with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, ALS, Chrohn’s disesase, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and HIV/AIDS. That’s in addition to terminally ill patients who, since 2014, had been allowed by Florida law to use medical marijuana on the recomendation of a doctor.
According to Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Health, “Using other states who have medical marijuana as a reference, we estimate 1.5 to 2.5 percent adoption among the (Florida) population.”
The drug — either low-THC (non-euphoric) marijuana or full-strength marijuana — must be consumed in oil or edible form.
According to the state Department of Health, seven doctors in St. Johns County have undergone the training and testing required to evaluate patients for the use of medical marijuana. The physicians include an eye doctor, an internist, a family doctor and an orthopedic specialist. The doctors can diagnose patients and determine if medical marijuana is an appropriate treatment but cannot dispense the drug itself.
Patients will be allowed a three 70-day supply before having to be reevaluated by a physician for a new prescription. Doctors input orders into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry. Patients then go to a dispensary to fill those orders.
Currently, there are just seven businesses in Florida that are licensed to grow and distribute medical cannabis, but the new law will bring that number up to 17. As of now, none of the certified dispensaries are in St. Johns County. Growers must apply for consideration, and the state will approve the expanded list of businesses by October. Five of the growers that applied in 2015 and were not selected will be among those licensed.
John Morgan, the Orlando-based attorney who has long been an advocate of medical marijuana, is pushing for eligible patients to be able to smoke marijuana. So far, inhaling the plant has not been approved by lawmakers. Morgan has threatened to sue the state over the smoking ban.