**MJ is still illegal under federal law**
**Any information included below is for educational purposes only and shall not be considered legal advice. You can still be criminally liable (see federal law section below) Anyone interested in getting involved in the MJ industry should consult an attorney**
The Cannabis industry in the state of Florida is currently in limbo— as we wait for Congress to agree on and pass the new medical marijuana laws. Two bills have been introduced in the Florida Senate and one is planned to be introduced in the House; however, nothing has been approved as of yet. Legislators will have until October 2017 to begin issuing permits and licenses.
In November 2016, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 2- this substantially expanded the presence of medical marijuana in FL. In January 2017, the new amendment was officially added to the Florida Constitution. The amendment includes language requiring legislators to have the new law written within 6 months. If the new law is not written within 6 months of January 2017, Florida residents may be able to bring suit.
Back in 2014, Florida voters approved medical marijuana for a short list of terminally ill patients. This medical marijuana is in the form of CBD and is low in THC. This law approved 5 dispensary organizations in Florida—one for each of the five regions. Over time, the Right to try Act was passed and high THC medical marijuana was made available for approved terminally ill patients. This Act also granted 2 more licenses, so there are now 7 dispensary organizations in Florida. A possible eighth license could be on its way. The current law “as is” states that 3 more dispensary licenses will be granted once the enrolled patients list reaches 300,000. According to the Pickford case, at least one of these new licenses will be granted to an African American group.
In November 2015, Florida voters approved an amendment to expand medical marijuana by 61% of the vote. However, it was not enough to officially pass as a constitutional amendment and ultimately failed. The very next year, in November of 2016, Florida voters came out in a vengeance and passed Amendment 2, expanding medical marijuana in Florida by 71% of the vote—the largest margin for any medical marijuana law in the country. In January 2017, Amendment 2 was officially added to the Florida state Constitution.
Two bills have already been introduced in the Florida Senate—Bradley’s bill and Brandice’s bill. A bill is projected to be introduced in the Florida House shortly. The big areas of disagreement pertain to whether the industry will be horizontally or vertically integrated, whether the current Dr. restrictions will remain in place and what will the expanded eligible conditions include. Legislators have until July 2017 to agree and pass a new law.
By the end of July 2017, the new medical marijuana laws will have been written. We will know whether or not the industry will be vertically or horizontally integrated. We will officially know how many more dispensary licenses will be granted and how many physical dispensaries will be opening in your local community. Whatever the outcome, the demand for the related products is anticipated to grow exponentially. This means entrepreneurs, small businesses, potential patients, doctors and even local governments are closely monitoring legislators and racing to get a piece of the action.
So how do you separate yourself from the crowd? You educate yourself. You learn about the current landscape and monitor what is expected to happen in the near future. You contact TLFA today to learn about the requirements and to learn if you’re eligible to get involved.
In order to get involved as a doctor in the medical marijuana industry, you must first get approved to recommend it. The approval process includes registering online, enrolling in an 8 hour course and complying with other trade regulations. It is important to remember marijuana is still illegal under federal law and recommending it to a patient could be construed as prescribing a schedule I controlled substance. Therefore, it is recommended you speak with an attorney to ensure full compliance and to learn more about possible malpractice issues. Be sure to ask about informed consent.
During the approval process, you will learn that in order to be eligible, a patient must have a debilitating condition. The exact language of the amendment states: a “Debilitating Medical Condition” means cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis. This seems pretty straight forward, but the catch-all phrase “or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient” is what doctors need to understand. Contact an attorney today to help you stay in compliance.
Even when you are ready to recommend a patient medical marijuana, before doing so, you must know what is available. As a doctor looking to get involved, your patients will expect you to know what is currently available in your area—CBD, oils, high THC, types of strains etc. This means speaking with local suppliers.
For more information about how to prepare for a patient who asks you about medical marijuana contact TLFA today.
As currently enacted under Amendment 2 of the Florida Constitution, patients with a debilitating condition may be eligible for medical marijuana. According to the amendment a “Debilitating Medical Condition” means cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, positive status for HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient. However, health insurance generally does not cover anything related to medical marijuana.
This means patients are expected to pay out-of-pocket for all doctor visits and any potential recommendations for medical marijuana. We will have to wait and see what the new law requires, but as is patients are required to have relationship with the recommending doctor for a minimum of 3 months. It is recommended you speak with an attorney or doctor before moving forward. It is important to remember marijuana is still federally illegal and a schedule I controlled substance—meaning you can still be criminally liable for smoking in public, taking it across state lines or driving while under the influence of marijuana.
As someone looking to get involved in the medical marijuana industry in Florida, it is important to remember marijuana is still illegal under federal law. And businesses must adhere to strict compliance or face severe penalties. Therefore, it is strongly recommended you speak with an attorney before getting involved.
Things you may not know:
The federal government first classified marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act (“CSA”) in 1970, making the use, possession, sale, cultivation, and transportation of marijuana in the United States illegal. However, in 1996, individual states began passing laws and initiatives to decriminalize cannabis for recreational or medical use, and have implemented complex regulations to govern the developing industry. Under the Obama administration, the United States Department of Justice released a series of memos in effect stating the Justice Dept. lacks the resources to fight the cannabis industry and would not be prosecuting violators of the Controlled Substance Act using, selling or cultivating marijuana as long as they adhered to certain stipulations. There is still some great concern as to whether the Trump administration and new attorney general Jeff Sessions will attempt to alter the current landscape. One possibility is for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin regulating the marijuana industry products. This could put demanding restrictions on the edibles market and small businesses looking to enter the market.
Today, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws permitting marijuana to be sold, possessed, and used for medicinal purposes. However, even in states where marijuana may be used legally, critical regulatory differences often exist at the local level. Many counties and cities have passed ordinances restricting the cultivation or sale of marijuana within their borders. For example, despite the fact that medical marijuana may be legal in the State of Florida, the city of Fort Lauderdale could adopt an ordinance completely prohibiting storefront dispensaries. Since FL amendment 2’s passage, many cities in Florida have chosen to file moratoriums prohibiting any marijuana related action until the new Florida law is written since deferral law still makes the drug illegal.
If you are still interested in getting involved in this industry, you should speak with an attorney before moving forward. Otherwise you may risk losing your medical license, facing criminal penalties, DEA raids or IRS fines.