Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative (2016)
In 2014, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 (Florida Senate Bill 1030) , created by Florida’s Department of Health and signed into law by the Governor, established the Office of Compassionate Use (OCU). This law allowed specified physicians to prescribe medical marijuana (at this point in time a low-THC cannabis) to specified patients in Florida.
Marijuana Patients are grouped into Two Categories
Florida law permits certain permanent Florida residents to obtain medical cannabis via an authorized physician who has undergone required training and licensed under Florida Statues 458 or 459. When no other satisfactory treatment exists and the authorized physician determines that the benefits of ordering cannabis / medical marijuana for that patient outweigh the risks, there are two types of cannabis / medical marijuana that two categories of patients can obtain:
- Low-THC Cannabis: Patients with cancer or a condition that causes chronic seizures or chronic muscle spasms may qualify to receive low-THC cannabis. Low-THC cannabis has very low amounts of the psychoactive ingredient THC and does not usually produce the “high” commonly associated with cannabis.
- Medical Cannabis: If a patient is suffering from a terminal condition, as determined by two physicians, the patient may qualify for medical cannabis. This product can contain sufficient levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC to produce the “high” commonly associated with cannabis.
The Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative is a constitutional amendment proposed for the Florida ballot on November 8, 2016.
The measure would legalize medical marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.
The medical applications of marijuana are wide ranging and under researched. Remember, the petition intends to allow licensed medical physicians decide whether a person should medicinally use marijuana for their condition by stating:
(b)(1), “Debilitating Medical Condition” means cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PETITION LANGUAGE
BALLOT TITLE: Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions
BALLOT SUMMARY: Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not immunize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
ARTICLE AND SECTION BEING CREATED OR AMENDED: Article X, Section 29
FULL TEXT OF THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT:
ARTICLE X, SECTION 29.– Medical marijuana production, possession and use.
(a) PUBLIC POLICY.
(1) The medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver in compliance with this section is not subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law.
(2) A physician shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law solely for issuing a physician certification with reasonable care to a person diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition in compliance with this section.
(3) Actions and conduct by a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center registered with the Department, or its agents or employees, and in compliance with this section and Department regulations, shall not be subject to criminal or civil liability or sanctions under Florida law.
(b) DEFINITIONS. For purposes of this section, the following words and terms shall have the following meanings:
(1) “Debilitating Medical Condition” means cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.
(2) “Department” means the Department of Health or its successor agency.
(3) “Identification card” means a document issued by the Department that identifies a qualifying patient or a caregiver.
(4) “Marijuana” has the meaning given cannabis in Section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes (2014), and, in addition, “Low-THC cannabis” as defined in Section 381.986(1)(b), Florida Statutes (2014), shall also be included in the meaning of the term “marijuana.”
(5) “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center” (MMTC) means an entity that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes (including development of related products such as food, tinctures, aerosols, oils, or ointments), transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials to qualifying patients or their caregivers and is registered by the Department.
(6) “Medical use” means the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of an amount of marijuana not in conflict with Department rules, or of related supplies by a qualifying patient or caregiver for use by the caregiver’s designated qualifying patient for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.
(7) “Caregiver” means a person who is at least twenty-one (21) years old who has agreed to assist with a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana and has qualified for and obtained a caregiver identification card issued by the Department. The Department may limit the number of qualifying patients a caregiver may assist at one time and the number of caregivers that a qualifying patient may have at one time. Caregivers are prohibited from consuming marijuana obtained for medical use by the qualifying patient.
(8) “Physician” means a person who is licensed to practice medicine in Florida.
(9) “Physician certification” means a written document signed by a physician, stating that in the physician’s professional opinion, the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition, that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for the patient, and for how long the physician recommends the medical use of marijuana for the patient. A physician certification may only be provided after the physician has conducted a physical examination and a full assessment of the medical history of the patient. In order for a physician certification to be issued to a minor, a parent or legal guardian of the minor must consent in writing.
(10) “Qualifying patient” means a person who has been diagnosed to have a debilitating medical condition, who has a physician certification and a valid qualifying patient identification card. If the Department does not begin issuing identification cards within nine (9) months after the effective date of this section, then a valid physician certification will serve as a patient identification card in order to allow a person to become a “qualifying patient” until the Department begins issuing identification cards.
(1) Nothing in this section allows for a violation of any law other than for conduct in compliance with the provisions of this section.
(2) Nothing in this section shall affect or repeal laws relating to non-medical use, possession, production, or sale of marijuana.
(3) Nothing in this section authorizes the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.
(4) Nothing in this section shall permit the operation of any vehicle, aircraft, train or boat while under the influence of marijuana.
(5) Nothing in this section requires the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.
(6) Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.
(7) Nothing in this section shall require any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana.
(8) Nothing in this section shall affect or repeal laws relating to negligence or professional malpractice on the part of a qualified patient, caregiver, physician, MMTC, or its agents or employees.
(d) DUTIES OF THE DEPARTMENT. The Department shall issue reasonable regulations necessary for the implementation and enforcement of this section. The purpose of the regulations is to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients. It is the duty of the Department to promulgate regulations in a timely fashion.
(1) Implementing Regulations. In order to allow the Department sufficient time after passage of this section, the following regulations shall be promulgated no later than six (6) months after the effective date of this section:
a. Procedures for the issuance and annual renewal of qualifying patient identification cards to people with physician certifications and standards for renewal of such identification cards. Before issuing an identification card to a minor, the Department must receive written consent from the minor’s parent or legal guardian, in addition to the physician certification.
b. Procedures establishing qualifications and standards for caregivers, including conducting appropriate background checks, and procedures for the issuance and annual renewal of caregiver identification cards.
c. Procedures for the registration of MMTCs that include procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension and revocation of registration, and standards to ensure proper security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection, and safety.
d. A regulation that defines the amount of marijuana that could reasonably be presumed to be an adequate supply for qualifying patients’ medical use, based on the best available evidence. This presumption as to quantity may be overcome with evidence of a particular qualifying patient’s appropriate medical use.
(2) Identification cards and registrations. The Department shall begin issuing qualifying patient and caregiver identification cards, and registering MMTCs no later than nine (9) months after the effective date of this section.
(3) If the Department does not issue regulations, or if the Department does not begin issuing identification cards and registering MMTCs within the time limits set in this section, any Florida citizen shall have standing to seek judicial relief to compel compliance with the Department’s constitutional duties.
(4) The Department shall protect the confidentiality of all qualifying patients. All records containing the identity of qualifying patients shall be confidential and kept from public disclosure other than for valid medical or law enforcement purposes.
(e) LEGISLATION. Nothing in this section shall limit the legislature from enacting laws consistent with this section.
(f) SEVERABILITY. The provisions of this section are severable and if any clause, sentence, paragraph or section of this measure, or an application thereof, is adjudged invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction other provisions shall continue to be in effect to the fullest extent possible.
Bill Overview of the Low-THC Cannabis Law
During the 2014 session, the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 1030, entitled the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.”
The bill was signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on June 16, 2014.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 directs the Florida Department of Health to establish an Office of Compassionate Use (OCU) under the Deputy Secretary for Health, to implement and manage the various aspects of the program. Responsibilities of the OCU include the following:
– Establishing a secure, electronic, and online compassionate use registry for the registration of physicians and patients that will also be accessible to law enforcement.
– Authorizing the establishment of five dispensing organizations to ensure reasonable statewide accessibility and availability necessary for patients registered in the compassionate use registry. These five dispensaries are to be located in the Northeast, Northwest, Central, Southeast, and Southwest regions of the state.
– Creating a network of state universities and medical centers to enhance access to investigational new drugs for Florida patients through approved clinical treatment plans or studies.
– Adopting rules necessary to implement the law.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 also includes the following provisions:
Specifies that one of the following conditions must exist in order for a physician to order low-THC for their patient:
– Cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis, or
– Symptoms of cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be alleviated with low-THC cannabis.
Physicians licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459 may order low-THC cannabis for qualified patients if no other satisfactory alternative treatment options exist for that patient and requires that all conditions listed must apply (see full text of the law for details on conditions).
– The patient is a permanent resident of the state.
– The physician determines that the risks of ordering low-THC cannabis are reasonable in light of the potential benefit for that patient.