Florida’s United for Care campaign spent two full election cycles — 2014 and 2016 — drafting, fighting, and pushing Floridians to legalize medicinal cannabis for demonstrably sick people. Last year, 72 percent of Floridians voted to amend the state constitution to legalize medical weed for people with diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Now it’s up to the Florida Legislature to adopt medical marijuana rules.
Yesterday, Fort Myers Rep. Ray Rodrigues finally unveiled the first medical weed regulations — and they would ban people from smoking marijuana or using edibles. Patients would also be prohibited from vaporizing weed if they aren’t terminally ill.
In fact, Rodrigues’ bill is more restrictive than the laws that existed before Florida overwhelmingly voted to legalize medical weed.
“It goes further than the current statute in terms of restricting medical marijuana,” says Ben Pollara, United for Care’s campaign director. “There was unanimous agreement that the new amendment would expand use.”
Rodrigues’ bill, which he introduced Tuesday, defines the “medical use” of cannabis as “the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of marijuana authorized by a physician certification.”
Specifically, however, the bill says medical use does not include “possession, use, or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking or vaping or in the form of commercially produced food items made with marijuana or marijuana oils, except for vapable forms possessed, used, or administered by or for a qualified patient diagnosed with a terminal condition.”
The restrictions perplex marijuana advocates such as Pollara.
“The question we’ve been asking all day is, ‘Well, how can you ingest it?'” he told New Times.
Before last year’s legalization vote, the state had already allowed low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis derivatives for terminally ill people under what was known as the “Compassionate Use” law. Under the old system, doctors could register on a state database and administer low-THC, high-cannabidiol medicines such as the “Charlotte’s Web” hemp extract.
The rest of Rodrigues’ 61-page bill effectively treats medical marijuana patients like they’re registering to ingest uranium. Lawmakers included rules mandating that a medical cannabis patient submit his or her state driver’s license and a second form of ID to obtain approved for medicinal weed. Patients can have their medical-pot licenses suspended if they’re charged (not convicted) of any drug offense; the state can also revoke pot licenses once a patient is deemed to be “cured.”
People who want to administer drugs to people who can’t take them themselves (such as children or the elderly) must undergo background checks and training courses. Both patients and caregivers will be issued photo ID cards. Patients will be barred from buying more than a 90-day supply of cannabis.
The bill also mandates an “education campaign” to publicize the “short-term and long-term health effects of cannabis and marijuana use, particularly on minors and young adults,” the “legal requirements for licit use and possession of marijuana in this state,” and the “safe use of marijuana.” The bill also sets up an impaired-driving education campaign.
“I don’t know how malleable the bill is right now, but it can be amended,” Pollara says. “It’s a disappointing place to start, but I’d rather it be disappointing to start than disappointing to finish.”
As always, if you want opiate painkillers in Florida, no such registration process for patients or caregivers is required. And unlike weed, those pills can kill you.