Confusion Residents Slow Community Cannabis Access in Florida

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Photo by: Lukasz stefanski/ shutterstock

Sure, Florida and marijuana had a limited legal arrangement before and — true — the amendment text dictated a six-month deadline before licensing rules and regulations were fully promulgated. You know what — I’ll even take it a step further: the ballot measure gives counties, cities, municipalities, and local governments the expressed authority to suspend licensing of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, and distribution centers.

florida marijuana uncertainty

Still, the volume of hesitation and trepidation surrounding the Amendment’s implementation swims upstream of positive patient outcomes.

Passing with 71% of the vote, Floridians resoundingly supported medical marijuana in November 2016. After being formally added to the State constitution in early January 2017, you’d imagine the voting public would want to get the people their newest medical treatment sooner rather than later. What has happened, in fact, is far less encouraging.

Pardon the Green-Rush Jitters

Having the opportunity to see how half the country — a total of 28 states now — manage their medical marijuana industry creates nothing but a tangential road map when a State moves to create their own. The current Florida marijuana program has roughly 2,000 patients registered within the state. Under Amendment 2, that number is anticipated to eclipse a half million by year’s end. Change can be exciting, but it can also cause people to reflect on the way things are currently.

Rather than outright embracing the social changes — especially with a mounting opioid epidemic — over twenty countries and nearly fifty cities have taken a wait and see approach to medical marijuana in Florida, placing a moratorium on licensing of marijuana facilities. Legislative and judicial shifts (such as legalizing a federally illegal market) are rare things in the modern era, so the fact that the collective society feels a bit to fret over is understandable, only at the behest of legitimate patient access to a potentially effective medicine.

In the end, that is what this comes down to — the patients who were underserved by the current options. I don’t want to misrepresent the situation; the communities that have temporarily banned marijuana dispensaries are not wanting to continue the ban indefinitely. They just want to make sure the rules are in place to protect communities and the children that reside within them before licensing an establishment.

Florida Marijuana & the Fight for Access

Under the current framework, dispensaries must be vertically integrated, meaning that they grow the plants, manufacture the edibles, concentrates, etc and sell the product. This can cause higher prices and lack of adequate supply as the number of patients increases. In addition, the state has been insofar extremely restrictive in the number of marijuana licenses. While there are currently two proposed rule changes floating through the State legislature that each carry a unique position on how to best deal with industry growth, the moratoriums are limiting patient access under already scarce market conditions.

Doctors continue to be wary about enrolling new patients in the State registry while the regulatory framework and legislation are being finalized. Though the amendment has been enacted, the state has yet to issue any further guidance on doctors enrolling patients under the new rules.

Previously, only terminally ill patients were eligible for full THC cannabis, while high-CBD, low-THC cannabis products were approved for a very limited number of conditions. While the new policy is being polished up, Florida marijuana patients are now eligible for full THC cannabis products for a wide array of illness, including (and not necessarily limited to):

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • PTSD
  • ALS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

The fight for access being pigeonholed by county bans and licensing scarcity is further compounded by the confusion within the medical community. The resultant slow-down of patient registration can — if Senate Bill 406 passes the legislature — prevent the flow of additional dispensary permit & licensure.

Education — An Emblem of Adherence

City councils and district representatives pushed for the moratoriums under the presumption that the new laws would encourage flippant legal misunderstandings. People growing weed in their backyard, smoking in public, driving while intoxicated, and general injurious consumption were thought as possible issues stemming from the amendment. In order to ensure adherence to the law, providing ample time to disseminate what is okay and what is not, the moratoriums act as a barrier to the misinformed. While it may possibly reduce expected impacts on the immediate community, the unfortunate reality is that patients are the ones who suffer in this arrangement.

The effect may just seem like another piece to the drawn-out reform of cultural views of marijuana, but for patients that maintain a low quality of life because of a debilitating illness, the waiting game is — in its own way — a significant pain of itself.

Be sure to check in frequently for updates on the Florida marijuana laws, as well as dispensary location information, hours of operation, locations, menus, and, of course, the savings you expect from the Cannabis Deals Network, Leafbuyer.com