Florida Medical Marijuana Proceeds Slowly But Surely

Florida cannabisFrom its inception, medical marijuana has been a tortured subject in Florida. Though the legislature passed the 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act (which allows for non-smokeable low-THC, high-CBD marijuana), the Compassionate Use Program it supports has been nothing short of a total circus. Not only does Florida’s Compassionate Use Program limit who can access marijuana for medical use, Florida physicians have been slow to recommend cannabis to their patients for fear of the Federal Government taking away their license. The Program permits only five nurseries in the entire state (each of which have to have been in existence for no less than 30 years!) to provide all of the state’s cannabis. Many claim the Program is wholly corrupt, and there have been multiple legal challenges from nurseries that didn’t secure a Dispensing Organization authorization from the Florida Department of Health.

This March, there was some loosening of Florida’s cannabis regime when its legislature passed HB 307, which expands the state’s Right to Try Act to include medical marijuana. The highlights of HB 307 include the following:

  • Terminally ill qualified patients, defined as those with conditions that, “without the administration of life-sustaining procedures, will result in death within one year if the condition runs its normal course,” may access marijuana with more than .8% THC.
  • Once the state has 250,000 active qualified patients in the compassionate use registry, the state can approve three more Dispensing Organizations that must include “a farmer who is part of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association and is a member of the black farmers’ litigation group.”
  • More regulatory standards for Dispensing Organizations, including, increased transportation, security, and packaging and labeling requirements, as well as quality assurance and pesticide testing standards.
  • Local governments can decide for themselves whether to ban or regulate Dispensing Organizations.
  • Authorization for each of the five initially-approved Dispensing Organizations to operate as a dispensing organization if they post a $5 million performance bond and meet the requirements of and requests cultivation authorization, and expend at least $100,000 to fulfill its obligation as a dispensing organization.

At the end of July, the state’s first dispensary, Trulieve, opened in Tallahassee. Trulieve also made the state’s first patient home delivery. Though Florida’s Program remains too restrictive to allow access to cannabis for many qualified patients, Florida is slowly but surely moving forward with medical marijuana.

Now, cue Amendment 2, which represents Florida’s voter initiative for a more expansive medical marijuana program. Amendment 2 is up for vote in November and it it passes it will give existing Dispensing Organizations a big head start over new competition.

In “Florida Medical Marijuana: What You Need to Know to Have a Cannabis Business Later,” I wrote about what you can and should do now to set yourself up for success when Florida adopts a more comprehensive MMJ program. Though it is looking like Amendment 2 will pas,s the opposition to Amendment 2 is starting to make its presence known (though it doesn’t compare to the first time around when opponents of the original Amendment 2 called edibles the new “date rape drug“). So far, the “No On 2” campaign released an ad claiming budtenders are “dope dealers with storefronts,” a Publix heiress donated significant money to defeat the initiative, and the Florida Medical Association formally opposed the measure at a medical conference sponsored by Big-Pharma.

Despite the mounting opposition, this second bite at the apple for Amendment 2 feels much different than the first time. The state itself hasn’t challenged the amendment and the opposition’s increasing desperation is coming off as even more superficial and unsubstantiated than the last time. Times have definitely changed and so long as fly-by-night “pot colleges” and airport seminars, and self-proclaimed “medical marijuana business lawyers” and “consultants” promising gobs of cash with reckless abandon manage not to offend too many Florida voters this time around, we’ll likely see Amendment 2 pass in November.

So if you are interested in participating in Florida’s cannabis industry, now is the time to start your engines.