While the 2016 election is most notable for selecting the nation’s next president, Florida voters are also deciding on some important amendments to the state’s constitution. Not the least of which is Amendment 2, which is poised to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Twenty-five states currently have laws that allow medical marijuana in some form. If Florida joins these states, the Amendment will create a new framework for prescribing, distributing, and possessing medical marijuana.
The new amendment gives immunity to four categories of individuals or entities from civil or criminal liability under Florida law. Bear in mind, that the Amendment only applies to Florida law, so federal laws prohibiting marijuana use and possession remain on the books.
The first category of people the statute applies to are the patients themselves. To qualify, patients need to have (1) been diagnosed with a “debilitating medical condition,” which only applies to a limited number of illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, ALS, and PTSD; (2) a certification from a physician that the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition and that the medical use of the marijuana outweighs any potential risk; and (3) receive an identification card from the Department of Health certifying that the patient qualifies to receive medical marijuana.
Caregivers of patients who use medical marijuana are protected from liability for possessing medical marijuana, however they are not allowed to consume it. To qualify as a caregiver, the person needs to be designated as such and obtain a caregiver identification card from the Department of Health. Caregivers also need to be at least 21 years old.
The Amendment also protects physicians who prescribe medical marijuana to qualified patients. However, doctors are only immunized for issuing prescriptions to qualified patients with reasonable care. So a doctor who negligently prescribes medical marijuana can still be held liable for medical malpractice.
Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers
The new amendment also protects several other organizations that fall under the label of medical marijuana treatment centers. This category is much broader than its name implies, and protects any entity that buys, grows, process, sells, or transports medical marijuana to qualifying patients or their caregivers. Medical Marijuana Treatment centers need to be registered with the Department of Health, and the Amendment leaves it up to the Department to establish the requirements for registration.
The new Amendment gives the Department of Health nine months to start issuing identification cards and licenses. If the Amendment passes, we can expect to see big changes, not only for those who suffer from serious illnesses, but from healthcare providers and distributors throughout the state as a whole.