By Joe Reedy
, The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida health officials have issued their proposed rules to implement the state’s constitutional medical marijuana amendment.
The regulations that were released on Friday by the Department of Health pick up the framework from the bill passed on June 9 by the State Legislature during a special session
. The Department last month outlined a procedure where it would give 15 days’ notice before adopting a new rule and the public three days to submit comments.
Under the amendment approved by 71 percent of voters last year, rules must be in place by July 3 and enacted by October. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said he “absolutely” intends to sign the bill. Scott should be able to sign the bill ahead of the first deadline.
Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambinieri says the department is committed to working collaboratively with the public to establish a patient-centered medical marijuana program.
According to the Department of Health, the state registry now has 16,614 patients. A recent state revenue impact study projects that by 2022 there will be 472,000 medical cannabis patients and $542 million in sales.
Highlights of Florida’s expanded medical marijuana bill:
Epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer and terminal conditions were allowed under bills passed in 2014 and 2016. The amendment now includes HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.
Patients & Caregivers
Patients and caregivers must be 21 and over. If a patient is a minor, a caregiver must be certified. Both must also receive an identification card. Advocates still would like to see caregivers not subject to penalties if they have to administer marijuana in the case of an emergency.
Smoking medical marijuana remains prohibited despite public demand. John Morgan, the driving force behind getting the amendment on the ballot last year and passed, said the only place where smoking is banned is in public places and intends to sue.
Besides vaping, medical marijuana products can be sold as edibles (as long as it is a food product and does not market or appeal to children), oils, sprays or tinctures. Vaping cartridges, especially whole-flower products, must be in a tamper-proof container.
Patients may receive an order for three 70-day supplies before having to visit a doctor again to get re-examined. A physician must recertify a patient at least once every 30 weeks instead of once every 90 days.
No Waiting Period
The requirement that a patient be in the care of a certified doctor for 90 days has been removed. The waiting period, which was a part of the last two bills signed by Gov. Rick Scott, came under more scrutiny when cannabis was extended last year to terminal patients. Also, the certification course for doctors has been reduced from eight hours to two.
Seasonal residents –those who reside in Florida at least 31 straight days each year, maintain temporary residence and are registered to vote or pay income tax in another state– will be eligible to receive medical marijuana.
More Treatment Centers
There will be 10 additional medical marijuana treatment centers by October. Five will be awarded by August 1 to nurseries that were narrowly defeated when the original distributors were selected in December 2015. Of the other five that will be awarded by October, one will go to a group of black farmers with citrus growers given preference to two others. By the end of the year there could be as many as 19 treatment centers. There would be a cap of 25 dispensaries per medical marijuana treatment center. As medical marijuana patient registrations increase, new dispensaries will be added: four dispensaries per 100,000 patients.
New License Requirements Relaxed
Instead of a nursery needing to be in business for 30 years, any Florida business that has been operating five or more years and has a medical director on staff can file an application.
There is a cap of 25 retail facilities per medical marijuana treatment center but it allows for four more shops per 100,000 patients with that cap subject to expire in 2020. Four more centers will be licensed per 100,000 patients. The state forecasts 472,000 patients in five years.
No Sales Tax
There will not be a sales tax on medical marijuana products. (Florida does not tax other medications.)