After’s California adult-use legalization, the big story from Nov 8 was battleground state Florida, which voted overwhelmingly to legalize medical marijuana with more than 70 percent of the vote.
The bad news is that there’s already a lot wrong with how Florida is choosing to carry out the will of the voters.
Amendment 2, Florida’s new medical marijuana law, is effective on Jan. 3, 2017, but it will be will be many months after that before the first patients receive any cannabis. Exact regulations for the cultivation and selling of which are yet to be determined, but the details may not matter: It’s going to be very hard indeed for even very sick people to acquire any cannabis at all, under initial rules proposed by the state Health Department’s “Office of Compassionate Use.”
For starters, it’s available only to patients with “terminal conditions” that are “not considered… to be reversible,” which, left untreated, would kill the patient within a year.
That’s good for people dying of AIDS or cancer, but not much help for anyone trying to live with chronic pain or PTSD.
Worse, the state will issue no more than six licenses to produce, transport, and distribute medicine, which cannot be provided in any form that can be smoked.
The result will be a near-monopoly of oil-makers who cannot hope to fulfill the demand, according to marijuana advocates, who claim state health regulators are ignoring the voter mandate and working instead to merely expand the state’s existing allowance for low-THC oil.
“To say we are skeptical is an understatement,” medical marijuana attorney Gerry Greenspoon told NBC Miami. “It may actually be illegal and unconstitutional, contrary to what was passed.”
Among the proposed rules that marijuana advocates say in direct contradiction to Amendment 2:
*Patients are required to have been treated by a doctor for three months prior to that doctor recommending medical marijuana;
*Doctors must undergo eight hours of required training prior to recommending any cannabis;
These are restrictions not applied to new pharmaceutical drugs, Florida NORML executive director Karen Goldstein pointed out.
There also appears to be no provision for home grow in Florida. All this adds up to next-to-no hope of anything resembling the simple access seen in California, Colorado, and other states who have successfully transitioned from medical to adult-use cannabis.
In a way, advocates should have known this was coming, as avoiding the weed free-for-all in other states was one of Amendment 2’s selling points.
This makes Florida consistent with the other red states that are allowing medical marijuana in theory, but putting severe restrictions on access to the drug in practice. In Texas, where only low-THC oil can be obtained, production licenses will be limited to no more than 12, and licensees have to pay steep inspection fines, in part because lawmakers are convinced oil with next-to-no psychoactivity could be a theft target.
The good news is that it’s unlikely these rules will stand. At least, that’s the promise: Legislators, including state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, have promised to smooth things out as soon as they form committees to study the issue beginning in January.
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