Medical Cannabis Debuts In Florida

Floridians residing in the sunshine state may be interested to know that medical cannabis sales are starting next week! Trulieve, located in Tallahassee, is the state’s first medical cannabis dispensary to get the official legal green light from the state to start doing business. Similarly to Illinois, Florida had a long delay after the law was made official while the new businesses got up and running, navigated rough legal waters, and then finally completed all the necessary inspections and approvals.

Interestingly the 2014 law which authorized the legal sale of medical cannabis, only did so for what is termed “low-THC” or “non-euphoric” cannabis. The law allowed only patients who were diagnosed with chronic muscle spasms, cancer or severe forms of epilepsy access to the low-THC products. A recent 2016 law added to the program what is termed “high-THC” cannabis, but only allowed terminal illness as the sole qualifying condition. Perplexingly, the program requires someone with little time left to live to go though the additional rigor of being declared terminally ill by not just one doctor, but two. High-THC cannabis would be better termed normal or regular cannabis to those familiar with the medical cannabis marketplace, as high-THC dominates market share of the current medical marketplace.

Florida state health officials estimate about 250,000 patients would qualify now for the low-THC medical cannabis. With Florida typically being the destination for retiring Americans, it would not shock me if patient numbers are very low. The older the age demographic, the more strongly ingrained and retained the Reefer Madness type thinking generally is in the group. The restrictive nature of their program is a reflection of the strong anti-cannabis sentiment which exist in the state’s population. I hope that the doctors and aging population of Florida alike come to embrace the idea that medical cannabis can be an option to discuss. As of this blog post only 15 doctors have signed up in Florida to register medical cannabis patients. The CEO of Trulieve, Kim Rivers, has no fears or doubts about the future of the program in Florida as she thinks “once people realize that it really is medicine, that it’s not in any way recreational, they will see why people need it.”

This program may expand come November of this year when Florida residents vote on a measure to modify the current program. Voters will cast their votes on whether to add Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for high-THC medical cannabis. In 2014 a similar measure was attempted, but failed by a small margin. I believe that this time around Floridians will vote to pass the measure. Trulieve also shows on their website that five additional locations are coming soon including Bradenton, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater.

What do you think about Florida’s medical cannabis program? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook!!!

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Florida House Approves Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill

Last week, Florida’s House voted 99-16 in favor of the state’s “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” bill which would legalize low-THC medical cannabis in the Sunshine State.

House Bill 307/1413, also known as Amendment 2 and sponsored by United For Care, would expand Florida’s medical marijuana from just cannabidiol (CBD) oil (passed in 2014) to strains carrying THC for those with life-threatening and very serious ailments. The bill’s fate now moves to the Senate, which should approve the bill for a public vote in November.

That expected result would mean 60% of Floridians would have to vote in favor of the bill come November. A recent poll shows the issue is polling at 65% in favor of the bill, so the bill appears to be in good shape.

But if history is any indication, there is no sure thing in Florida. In 2014, an essentially identical bill with the same name (Amendment 2) was polling well over 60%, but fell just short of victory come election day.

Should the bill come to fruition, the same five dispensaries currently cultivating CBD-centric strains in Florida would also be responsible for growing and dispensing these low-THC strains for patients in need of cannabis’ psychoactive chemical’s medical properties. Those benefiting from this bill’s evolution include Florida’s current medical marijuana patients with severe illnesses like cancer, epilepsy, HIV, glaucoma, PTSD, ALS, Chron’s, MS, and Parkinson’s.

Like New York, Florida’s bill contains the caveat that patients may not actually inhale cannabis. Marijuana will only be consumed in capsules, tinctures, salves, and “oral consumibles.”

As is the case with many regions across America, Florida should have the chance to evolve its stance on medical marijuana come this fall and cannabis as a whole In the last year, major Florida areas such as Miami-Dead, Palm Beach, and Tampa Bay have all decriminalized marijuana possession.

 

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