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Marijuana Legalization in the Sunshine State: What You Need to Know

In the November election, 71% of Floridians voted in favor of Amendment 2, which expands the list of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Amendment 2 went into effect on January 3, 2017, and requires Florida Department of Health to set regulations for issuing medical marijuana identification cards, qualifications and standards for caregivers, and rules for the registration of medical marijuana treatment centers within 6 months of the effective date.

Despite the support for expanding access to medical marijuana, Florida lawmakers have proposed different ways to implement Florida’s new medical marijuana program. Some are in favor of creating medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs), while others have proposed limiting those who can prescribe medical marijuana to people who have been the patient of a physician for at least 90 days.

Regardless of the implementation of specific policies, it is clear that we are entering a new age of marijuana laws.

New Law Expands Access to Medical Marijuana

Florida’s new medical marijuana law allows for the use of cannabis to treat the following medical conditions:

  • cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis

The new law also gives Florida doctors the option to certify patients for medical marijuana use if they have been diagnosed with some “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”

However, only physicians who completed the required training can lawfully recommend cannabis. And before asking a doctor to recommend medical marijuana, the law requires you to have considered all other treatments for your condition. If you decide to seek medical marijuana as a treatment option, in addition to a recommendation from your physician, you must also get a second opinion from a doctor who agrees that medical marijuana is necessary.

I Have a Recommendation for Medical Marijuana – Where Do I Get It?

Even if you successfully receive a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana, there are currently only 6 licensed cannabis dispensaries in Florida. And despite state-wide expansion of marijuana for medical purposes, many cities and villages across Florida have placed moratoriums on the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries. Other local leaders have implemented a ‘wait and see’ approach as the Florida Department of Health and state lawmakers grapple with the rules and laws that will govern the statewide practice of licensing, growing, harvesting, and selling medical marijuana. Therefore, even with a lawful prescription, actually obtaining medical marijuana can prove somewhat difficult.

Decriminalization of Marijuana across Florida

Beyond the medical context, several cities and counties across Florida have passed ordinances that give police officers discretion to issue a civil citation to people in possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, instead of placing them under arrest. Jurisdictions that have gone this route include Miami-Dade County, Tampa, Key West, and Orlando. However, other police departments have indicated that they will continue to arrest anyone in possession of marijuana, so caution should be exercised.

At the state level, lawmakers have introduced legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, categorizing it as a noncriminal civil violation, rather than a criminal misdemeanor. If passed, these bills would allow adults caught with a “personal use quantity of marijuana,” defined as one ounce or less, to face a civil penalty of no more than $100 or 15 hours of community service.

If one thing is clear about marijuana use in Florida, it’s that the law is continuing to evolve. Therefore, I urge my clients who use marijuana to exercise caution. While the police may turn a blind eye in one city, the response could be very different in another.

Charged with Marijuana Possession in Central Florida? Contact The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher

If you have been charged with a marijuana related crime in Florida, contact an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney at The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher. I represent people throughout central-Florida, and offer free, confidential consultations. Call (352) 503-4111, email, or complete our online information form today.

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