The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 16, 2014. Legal confusion ensued about the status of medical marijuana in Florida and why it’s taken nearly two years to get it to patients.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, in a nutshell:
- Made non-euphoric (low-THC and high Cannabidiol) forms of marijuana for medical use legal for:
- ONLY patients with these diagnosed conditions: cancer, epilepsy and chronic seizures or muscle spasms
- Made it legal for licensed doctors in the state to write prescriptions for cannabis oil, or non-smokeable marijuana, for the three classes of patients
- Established a system for patients to receive their medical marijuana prescriptions from one of five licensed dispensing organizations designated by the state
In November 2015, the Florida Department of Health approved five nurseries to acquire licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana. Each nursery was selected within a separate region of the state. They are:
- Hackney Nursery in Gadsden County from the Northwest region
- Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Alachua County from the Northeast region
- Knox Nursery in Orange County from the Central region
- Alpha Surterra in Hillsborough County from the Southwest region
- Costa Nursery in Miami Dade County from the Southeast region
- San Felasco Nurseries in Alachua County was added as a sixth licensed grower in early April 2016 after a Dept. of Administrative Hearings appeals case ruling
On March 25, 2016 Scott signed into law an expansion to the Right To Try Act of 2015, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Matt Gaetz. The existing act allows for terminal patients in Florida to try drugs that are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The expansion:
- Adds medical marijuana to the list of available drugs not approved by the FDA
- Medical marijuana for these terminally-ill patients can be of any strength, and even smokeable; It does not have to be low-THC
- Requires the state to designate three new growers and dispensing organizations upon hitting 250,000 qualified patients who have registered in the state’s compassionate use registry
For now, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 doesn’t cover all patients who are seeking medical cannabis products. Only patients who are classified as terminal fall under the Right To Try Act expansion.
Then, there are medical refugees, patients eligible for medicinal cannabis who cannot afford to wait the three months until Florida has products available.
Coming up in the November 2016 election, Florida voters will decide the fate of a wider-reaching referendum on the ballot that could legalize medical marijuana of any strength for all patients. If passed, the referendum could change the current medical cannabis laws.