Boynton Beach, Florida — August 3, 2016 –Everyone seems to be talking about Florida’s pot laws right now. There all sorts of wild stories and myths one hears in general conversations around the state: “It is legal in Miami – heck people are walking around with joints behind their ear” or, “You can grow your own, just like that lady in Bradenton” or “The government is growing pot and only a few people are allowed to sell it.”
People have lots of questions, “Can I legally get cannabis in Florida? Do I qualify for medical cannabis? Is Trulieve in Tallahassee the only place to get cannabis? Does Trulieve sell bud?”
The Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLCAN) is a great source for the truth about cannabis and cannabis laws. They want you to have the right information, actionable intelligence, and the sources to back up what you say.
FLCAN put together a one-page handout several months ago to serve as their ‘State of the State’. Cannabis laws are changing slowly and only a very limited number of conditions qualify for legal access to medical cannabis. Even if Florida’s Amendment 2 passes in November 2016, it will still be a medical-only program limited to patients with qualifying conditions. Neither current Florida law or the language of Amendment 2 recognizes patients with recommendations from other states. There is no reciprocity.
No one legalized cannabis without telling you. For possession of under 20 grams, law enforcers have the option to take you to jail or write you a notice to appear in criminal court. So far, Amendment 2 is doing well when Florida voters are polled and if that holds steady, then it will pass the 60.1 percent threshold needed to become law.
In areas where local city councils or county commissions have created a civil infraction for cannabis possession, a third option now exists. Police in jurisdictions with civil infractions may charge you under the local law or the state law. The penalty ranges from a $100 civil fine to up to $1000 fine, court costs, probation, loss of driver’s license and drug treatment for a misdemeanor possession charge. For now, Florida still has a medical necessity defense for patients with a qualifying condition who get caught using cannabis without a card from the Department of Health.
Florida’s medical marijuana program is evolving every day. Right now, qualifying conditions for high-CBD, low-THC preparations include frequent and severe spasticity, cancer or seizure disorders.
In order to become a patient who can legally purchase low-THC, high-CBD products, you must be working with a qualified physician. Any doctor in Florida, who is licensed under Florida Statute 458 or 459 may register with the Department of Health as a referring physician. Physicians must pass a course on cannabis medicine offered by the FMA (Florida Medical Association) or FOMA (Florida Osteopathic Medicine Association). If you are a doctor and would like to take the course and become registered to recommend cannabis, click here.
A list of doctors who have completed the course and registered with the Department of Health is here.
While patients with severe spasticity, cancer, and seizure disorders are qualified under state law, the patient must work with the physician for three months before they can be recommended low-THC, high-CBD cannabis.
The Florida Right to Try Act, amended in 2016, includes full-THC cannabis products for patients who have less than one year to live. None of the current dispensing groups have full-THC products available at this time.
If someone you love has a terminal illness, encourage their treating physician to take the required course and register with the Department of Health now in order to receive the full-THC products when they are available.
For all Florida patients with qualifying conditions, if your current treating physician will not take the course and sign up with the Department of Health, you must find another doctor in order to be a qualified patient.
First, there were five, now there are six? Florida law originally allowed for one license holder in each of five reasons. In 2016, due to problems arising from the rule making process, the legislature amended the law to include any grower who wins a court challenge.
The first of six qualified dispensaries, Hackney Farms operating as Trulieve, opened its doors last in week in Tallahassee. Trulieve expects that THC products will be available for patients who qualify under the Right to Try Act of 2016 by the end of August, though all of the products on the shelf now are low-THC and high-CBD.
Other dispensing organizations include:
Chestnut Hills Tree Farm operating as CHT Medical – Alachua County
San Felasco Nurseries operating as The Green Solution – Alachua County
Hackney Nurseries operating as Trulieve – Gadsden County
Alpha Foliage operating as Surterra Therapeutics – Hillsborough County
Costa Nursery Farms operating as Modern Health Concepts – Miami-Dade County
Knox Nurseries operating as Knox Medical – Orange County
Loops Nursery and Greenhouses was in court this week on a legal challenge. IF they win, the North East Region would have three license holders. Tornello Landscape, operating as Three Boys Farms has a legal challenge pending, should they win the challenge they will be licensed to grow cannabis in the South West Region but again, they can dispense anywhere. There are still three other legal challenges pending decisions by the court.
Although the companies each are licensed for a certain region, they are permitted to dispense cannabis throughout the state. The license holders all plan for home delivery as an option for patients. Please note, it is federally illegal to mail cannabis. Trulieve leadership assured us they have a delivery plan that includes state-wide distribution by a vehicle with a security plan.
The license holders must work closely with the Department of Health at every phase of the operations. They must be inspected before receiving permission to cultivate, and meet strict requirements throughout the growth cycle. Further permissions must be granted after the harvest before they can extract. Only two license holders, Trulieve and Tera Sutra have received the next permit, permission to dispense.
At this point, only high-CBD, low-THC products are legally available; and they are only available to patients who are entered into the Department of Health database. Products include extracted oils, oral capsules, as well as oil-based vaporizers/refills. The future promises a further variety of products including tinctures, salves and ground flowers in sealed vapor cups once THC crops are harvested.
The bottom line:
CBD-only products are on the shelf in every town in Florida right now and available online from numerous sources. How those products differ from the products on the shelf at the licensed dispensaries remains to be seen. What we do know is if you have a recommendation from a licensed physician in compliance with the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, you are legally able to purchase cannabis preparations that are tested for purity and grown by a known supplier, with only approved chemicals. Unless you have a prescription for Marinol, or a synthetic THC product, or are registered with the state as part of the Right to Try Act, possession of any product with THC remains illegal at this time.