In some parts of the state, registered voters can cast their ballot early beginning today! The early voting schedule varies by county and will end on Saturday, November 3. Florida’s general election is set for Tuesday, November 6.
Here’s a look at where gubernatorial candidates stand on marijuana policy reform: Andrew Gillum (D) supports legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, while Ron DeSantis (R) opposes legalization but is supportive of implementing Florida’s medical marijuana law. You can find information on Florida’s current marijuana policies here.
For more information on early voting and Election Day voting, including where you can cast your ballot and when voting locations will be open, check out the state’s elections website here.
Please forward this to your network, and be sure to get out and vote!
On May 25, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that patients “have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their certified physicians.”
This is a big win for patient rights in Florida. After voters overwhelmingly approved the medical marijuana constitutional amendment in 2016, the Florida Legislature passed a law to prevent patients from using smokable marijuana. As you may know, for some patients, smoking marijuana is more effective than vaping or using edibles.
People United for Medical Marijuana and Florida for Care, joined by patients Cathy Jordan, who has ALS, and Diana Dodsen, who has AIDS, challenged the legislature’s attempt to restrict patients’ options. Judge Gievers ruled that patients have the right to use medical marijuana in private under the constitution.
Unfortunately, soon after Judge Gievers’ ruling, the Florida Department of Health appealed the decision, resulting in an automatic stay and preventing the decision from going into effect immediately. We are hopeful that the court decision will remain in effect and that patients will soon have the right to use medical marijuana in whatever way that works best for them.
On Wednesday, Leon County Judge Karen Gievers ruled that Joseph Redner, a 77-year-old cancer patient, may grow his own marijuana plants. Redner is a registered medical marijuana patient in Florida. Unfortunately, the Department of Health has already filed an appeal and will fight the decision.
Tampa Bay Times reports:
The ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers applies only to Redner, 77. The Florida Department of Health responded quickly, filing an appeal.
The department had said Floridians are barred under state rules from growing cannabis for their personal use, including those who are legally registered as medical marijuana patients.
But Redner and other critics across the state say the health department continues to create barriers for more than 95,000 registered patients in Florida that could benefit from marijuana. Redner is a stage 4 lung cancer survivor and a registered medical marijuana patient.
"Under Florida law, Plantiff Redner is entitled to possess, grow and use marijuana for juicing, soley for the purpose of his emulsifying the biomass he needs for the juicing protocol recommended by his physician," Gievers said in her ruling. The word "solely" is bolded and underlined for emphasis in the document.
"The court also finds … that the Florida Department of Health has been, and continues to be non-compliant with the Florida constitutional requirements," the judge added, referring to the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016 that made medical marijuana legal.
Redner’s attorney, Luke Lirot of Clearwater, said the judge was right to "castigate the health department for being a barrier to medicine."
While this ruling only applies to Joseph Redner, it most certainly opens the door for other Florida patients to finally be allowed to cultivate their medicine at home.
The Florida Senate Health Committee convened this morning and received an update from Christian Bax, Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, on the implementation of regulations in Senate Bill 8A, which was passed by the legislature this summer.
The discussion focused on the application structure for adding additional medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs). Last month, a lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of part of the state law that requires a medical marijuana license to go to a black farmer, and today the Office of Medical Marijuana Use said it will not issue any new licenses until the lawsuit is resolved.
When further questioned by the committee, Director Bax said, “We want to move the process as quickly as possible forward,” but cited concerns of legislative process that might invalidate the Department of Health’s licensing. If you’d like to watch Christian Bax’s testimony, the Florida Senate’s Health Policy meeting can be found on its website.
Amendment 2 established a deadline of October 3, 2017 for the Department of Health to issue additional MMTC licenses. If you are a Florida resident, please contact the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and ask Director Bax to end the delay in medical marijuana licensing so that patients can have more access to treatment.
The Florida Department of Health has proposed regulations to establish the procedure to apply for Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) licenses and to outline the evaluation process for applicants. The application is posted on the Office of Compassionate Use website, and applicants may begin completing applications for submission.
In order to become a licensed MMTC, each applicant is required to submit financial statements and to pass a background check. The law regulating Amendment 2 provides for 10 new licenses to be granted to growers in the state in addition to the seven that already exist and would require another four licenses to be issued for every 100,000 patients added to the state’s medical marijuana registry.
On Friday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed medical marijuana regulation legislation into law. The legislature passed SB 8A in a special session after the regular session ended without a bill to implement Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana and was supported by 71% of voters last year.
The new law outlines licensing for 10 new companies as growers by October, which would increase the statewide total to 17. The law also allows patients, with a doctor’s recommendation, to use medical marijuana in the form of pills, oils, and edibles. Patients may engage in vaping, but unfortunately, the law does ban smoking.
Additionally, the Department of Health is simultaneously working to regulate the amendment. Spokeswoman Mara Gambineri says the department is crafting rules to comply with SB 8A, “which provides a framework for patients to access marijuana safely.”
Amendment 2 gives health officials until July 3 to craft rules to regulate the amendment and until October 3 to implement those rules.
The Florida Legislature reached an agreement to regulate medical marijuana in Florida resulting in Senator Rob Bradley filing SB-8A. Without this special session bill, the Florida Department of Health would have likely issued unduly restrictive regulations.
The bill calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year. Five new licenses would go to previous applicants, and the other five would go to new applicants. Additionally, the bill requires four licenses to be issued for every 100,000 patients added to the state’s medical marijuana registry.
Also, the number of dispensaries each grower can open will be capped at 25 – resolving the dispute that prohibited lawmakers from passing a regulation bill during regular session.
While this implementation bill is a huge step in the right direction, there is still work to be done in Florida in the coming months and years. Specifically, the bill does not fully allow patients to decide how to take medical marijuana and advocates in the Sunshine state have expressed a willingness to challenge this issue in court.
The amendment requires laws be in place by July and enacted by October, and because of this special session, it seems that the legislature will meet that target date.
The Florida legislative session ended without a medical marijuana implementation bill being passed. As a result, state health officials will now have to implement Amendment 2, the initiative approved last November by more than 71% of voters.
According to a report from the News Service of Florida:
A potential deal collapsed Friday evening after the House amended its proposal (HB 1397) to impose a cap of 100 retail outlets for each of the state's medical marijuana operators, over the objections of some Democrats. The Senate had proposed a cap of 10, at least for now.
The Florida Department of Health now has until next month to issue regulations for implementation of Amendment 2. Unfortunately, the Department of Health’s proposed guidelines, circulated earlier this year, are too restrictive and inconsistent with the overwhelmingly popular amendment. MPP submitted public comments criticizing the Department’s proposed regulations.
If you reside in Florida, please contact the Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use and request that regulations be focused on patient access and market accessibility. Specifically, tell the Department of Health to:
- Allow physician recommendations without requiring doctors to specify a type or quantity of medical marijuana;
- Permit patients to use medical marijuana by smoking, vaping, or consuming edibles; and
- Avoid any limitation on the doctor-patient relationship and allow doctors to recommend after a reasonable assessment.
Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!
Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.
While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.
This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.
MPP released the following in a press release:
“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”
Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.
“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”
Tuesday morning, the Florida Health Department released draft rules that are supposed to implement the medical marijuana law approved by 71% of Florida voters. It doesn’t appear regulators actually read Amendment 2, however. Instead, they tried to simply slightly expand the existing, and ineffective, low-THC program.
These rules would be a disaster for patients:
- They require doctors to “order” specific quantities of cannabis, which is too much like an unlawful prescription and puts them at risk under federal law. If doctors don’t participate, patients won’t be able to enroll.
- They give the Health Department — not the patient’s doctor — the ability to determine whether the patient’s condition is “substantially similar” to those listed in the amendment.
- They continue the oligopoly of only seven businesses for an expected patient population of over 162,000 — far fewer businesses per patient than any other state! This will drive up prices and result in less variety of strains and products for different patients’ needs.
- Even if additional businesses were eventually allowed, they would be subject to unfair and onerous requirements.
Thankfully, these rules are not final and the public has an opportunity to comment. There will be a series of public meetings around the state, and members of the public can provide comments on the Department of Health website.