60 Second Guide to Understanding Florida’s New Medical Marijuana Law

Carrie Mendrick Roane photo

On November 8, 2016, 71% of Florida voters passed “Amendment 2,” which protects qualified patients, caregivers, physicians, and dispensaries from criminal prosecutions and civil sanctions under Florida law – but not federal law. Federal law still prohibits the possession and distribution of marijuana.

To become a patient, you must get a physician’s certificate from a Florida registered physician with whom you have been a patient for at least 90 days. The physician will fully examine you and consider your medical history and can issue the certificate if you have a debilitating condition.

Currently, 340 physicians are registered in Florida to issue certificates.

Debilitating conditions include, but are not limited to, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, MLS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, or other comparable debilitating medical conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.

Once you have a physicians’ certificate, you will need an ID card from the Florida Department of Health. The Department is required to start issuing ID cards within 9 months of Amendment 2’s adoption.

Caregivers must be at least 21 years of age and must also obtain an ID card from the Florida Department of Health. Caregivers may be limited in the number of patients they can assist.

Medical marijuana will be available to patients from dispensaries, which are called “medical marijuana treatment centers.”

Patients are not permitted to grow medical marijuana on their own.

The total number of dispensaries and their locations has not yet been determined by the Department of Health.

The Florida Department of Health has 6 months to write regulations to govern Florida’s medical marijuana program. Once the regulations are adopted, businesses can apply to be a dispensary, go through a selection process, become licensed, and then begin growing product.

  • Operating under Florida’s current law which permits a very limited group of patients access to marijuana low in THC (less than .8%), there are dispensaries in Tallahassee, Clearwater, and Tampa. Since the adoption of Amendment 2, 55 cities statewide have issued zoning moratoriums either banning on restricting dispensaries. Most of the moratoriums are temporarily in place until the Department of Health completes its regulations.
  • Based on what has occurred in the 25 states which passed medical marijuana laws before Florida, it appears that medical marijuana will not be available to patients with ID cards until approximately November 2017.
  • It does not appear that there will be a limit on the amount of THC that is allowed in medical marijuana.
  • A variety of products will likely be available, from food products to oils to ointments.
  • The Florida Department of Health will determine, in their regulations, how much medical marijuana is an “adequate supply” for patients.
  • Amendment 2 does not make it legal to smoke marijuana in public.
  • Employers and school are still permitted to adopt their own policies regarding use of medical marijuana at their respective facilities. You can be expelled from school or fired from your job if you use medical marijuana in violation of your school or employer’s policies.
  • You can still be prosecuted for driving under the influence of medical marijuana. Do not drive under the influence.
  • Florida is expected to log more than $1 billion in medical marijuana sales by 2019. At that rate, it will surpass Colorado within four years.