Questions and answers about medical marijuana in Florida

florida medical marijuana hbtv hemp beach tvMonday’s Florida Supreme Court ruling puts medical marijuana on the November general election ballot. If the proposed constitutional amendment passes by at least 60 per cent of the vote, some details will have to be sorted out by state health officials before patients can legally obtain pot. Other details, however, are outlined in the proposed amendment. Here is what is known about how medical marijuana would work in Florida, as well as what remains to be seen.

Who could use medical marijuana?

A person with a doctor’s certificate stating that the patient has a debilitating condition that qualifies for medical marijuana. The Florida Department of Health would issue an identification card that would be shown at point of purchase. The card would let law enforcement know the patient is allowed to possess marijuana or related derivatives within amounts set by law.

What medical conditions would qualify?

Specific diseases or other “debilitating” conditions for which the doctor thinks benefits of use would outweigh risk. Specific diseases are: Cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and Crohn’s Disease.

When could a patient start legally using marijuana.

The effective date of the amendment is Jan. 6. The Department of Health must issue implementing regulations with six months and begin issuing identification cards within nine months. If the department fails to issue cards within nine months, the doctor’s certification will serve as identification that allows purchase and possession.

How much marijuana could a patient possess?

That will be determined by the Department of Health, based on what is “reasonably presumed to be an adequate supply.” Patients who think they need more could appeal. Besides smokable marijuana, oil, tinctures and cannabis-laced food products would be allowed.

How would a patient fill a prescription?

There will be no prescriptions because marijuana is not an FDA approved medicine with controlled doses. It would be more like an over the counter herb, available only to people with an I.D. card. Certifying doctors must be licensed to practice in Florida, but the amendment does not require that they have an ongoing relationship with the patient.

Where would medical marijuana be sold?

Only at state licensed dispensaries called “Medical Treatment Centers.” Treatment centers would also grow or acquire the product and any growers would have to be licensed as a treatment center. The Department of Health would issue rules about how many dispensaries would be allowed and how they would be monitored. Growing your own pot would remain illegal, as it is under current law.

Would the marijuana be taxed?

The amendment does not spell out special taxation provisions. Presumably, sales tax would apply and dispensaries may be subject to a licensing fee. The Legislature could create a special tax, as with liquor, cigarettes and gasoline.

What if the Department of Health writes regulations so restrictive that usage is effectively banned?

The amendment says the department must issue “timely” and “reasonable” rules that “ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients.'” If the regulations are too restrictive, any Florida citizen could sue to enforce the constitutional intent.

Can caregivers possess marijuana?

A person over 21 can buy and handle the marijuana on behalf of up to five patients. Caregivers would have an identification card issued by the state. Employees of hospices, hospitals and nursing homes can serve more than five patients.

How old must a patient be?

The amendment does not set age limits. In other states, use by minors usually requires parental consent, as with other medical treatments.

Would insurance cover it?

That would be up to the insurer. The amendment does not require coverage. Medicare does not cover medical marijuana even in states where it is legal, just as it does not cover nonprescription drugs and supplements like gingko biloba.

Could pot-smoking in public be regulated just as cigarette smoking is regulated?

Yes. Calling it medicine does not confer the right to use pot anywhere.

What about using it at work or in schools?

Schools and employers would be free to prohibit on the job use. The amendment does not give any protection to employees seeking exemption from drug testing or repercussions of positive tests.

Would information on identification cards be public?

No. The Department of Health must keep records confidential, even from employers, family members or others who may have an interest. But the information could be disclosed for “valid medical or law enforcement purposes.”

Could the Legislature set up its own system to regulate medical marijuana?

Yes, but it could not contradict the amendment. For example, the Legislature could not make dispensaries illegal. However, it could permit home cultivation, which is now banned by statute.

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