The results of November’s election made it clear that Floridians were fed up with the state’s highly limited and widely inaccessible medical marijuana program. An overwhelming majority of voters acted to pass Amendment 2, but in the three months since the amendment’s passing, state health officials and qualified patients remain at odds over who will have access to medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.
The goal of Amendment 2 was to make medical marijuana accessible to more Floridians, as the previous program allowed its use by patients deemed “terminal” and a small number of others suffering from a very limited list of conditions. The legislation also allows patients to access higher-strength cannabis, or that containing higher concentrations of THC, a component found in the cannabis plant.
“Patients, doctors, caregivers, and activists all had a unified message which is rare,” Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for United for Care, said of Florida’s Amendment 2. “They want impediments removed and a free market place.”
On the converse, Florida state officials have suggested restrictions for what conditions qualify patients to be prescribed medical marijuana and where those patients will be able to obtain cannabis. These recommendations have sparked demonstrations of opposition, illustrated by the nearly 1,300 Floridians who have attended bureaucratic hearings across the state to have their voices heard.
Similar situations took place in early February at state-held hearings in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando, where citizens voiced their concerns over restrictions, high prices, and limited availability of cannabis products.
Concerns of high prices and limited availability stem from the delayed opening of organizations approved to dispense cannabis products. To date, only five of the seven organizations are operating and patients are not hopeful that the remaining two will open in the near future.
Supporters of the amendment are also in opposition to the provision that a patient must be under the prescribing physician’s care for at least 90 days before they are eligible for a medical marijuana prescription. Activists have voiced that when a patient is eligible for medical marijuana should be up to the physician and not dictated by the amendment’s conditions or the Board of Medicine.
One former Florida judge, Doug Bench, testified in Tallahassee in favor of doing away with the 90-day requirement. Bench wanted to make the crowd aware that many very sick people wait to see a doctor until they are in desperate need of medical intervention.
“When you are ill you put it off,” Bench said. “You don’t want to hear what the doctor says and by the time you finally go you need it now.”
The rules of the amendment and implementing the program’s expansions are a particular point of contention right now, as the state of Florida is required to adopt the rules by July 3 at the latest and have them in place by this coming September.
Both the Florida Department of Health and the state Legislature will have a say in any changes to the [proposed program. Department officials will consider citizen concerns and publish another rule for consideration; the timeline for this publication depends largely on continued public comments and any legal challenges. The Senate and House of Representatives are each expected to release unique versions of bills pertaining to the contentious program rules before session opens on March 7.
Amendment’s 2 passing was celebrated by medical cannabis enthusiasts across the nation because of the increased number of patients who will gain access to medical marijuana treatment options. For more information on cannabis’ medical and therapeutic applications contact one of our Healthway Education Representatives today!