On Friday, the Florida Senate and House could not come to an agreement on the wording of legislation to regulate the implementation of medical cannabis, which is constitutionally legal as a result of 71% of Florida voters approving Amendment 2 last November. Due to the legislature’s inaction, no changes to the existing law will occur at this time, though legislators can call for a special session to open the bill back up.
There were several good changes in the version of the bill that failed to pass the Florida legislature. It would have lifted the required 90-day waiting period of being treated by the ordering physician, expanded the number of state-approved cannabis dispensaries (a/k/a Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers or MMTCs), and allowed for edible products. Additionally, it would have authorized opening a medical cannabis research center at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
However, the bill’s final language also included several elements that I found very disturbing. For example, because of the numerous hoop-jumping regulations physicians would have had to jump through, physicians would be far more restricted in their use of cannabis treatment than is the standard for other controlled substances. The bill would have created a bureaucratic “Certification Pattern Review Panel” that inspected every patient certification made by a physician, including tracking and reporting the number of physician certifications, the qualifying medical conditions, dosage, supply amount, and forms of marijuana certified. This information would then be reported to the governor. It also required the physician to justify and submit “documentation” for every patient with similarly debilitating conditions similar to those conditions listed in Amendment 2. Despite having never met the patient nor having been involved in the treatment decision-making process, the panel might have been given the authority to sanction doctors for decisions with which they did not agree. The panel could also reverse decisions made by the patient and his/her physician regarding the best plan of care, which in effect denies the patient’s right to be treated. In my opinion, this is WAY too much “big brother”.
So for now, nothing changes. We expect many court battles throughout the State in the months to come. We will continue to modify our practice to comply with all laws and regulations. Thankfully, qualified doctors can still recommend medical cannabis to the wide range of patients covered by Amendment 2 and patients can proceed with getting their medical cannabis ID cards. Full information on how patients are treated under Florida law can be found at www.familymedicalcannabisclinic.com.