Becoming a Patient in Florida
Under Florida law, patients suffering from specified medical conditions are eligible to receive medical marijuana if their treating physician properly determines that such medicine will assist in treating the condition or alleviating its symptoms.
To obtain medical marijuana in Florida, the patient must meet the following basic requirements:
- Must be a permanent resident of Florida;
- Must be a patient of the recommending physician for at least three (3) months;
- Must be diagnosed with a medical condition that qualifies the patient for either “low-THC Cannabis” or “medical cannabis.”
Patients suffering from cancer or a condition that causes chronic seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms may receive and use non-euphoric “low-THC cannabis.” That type of cannabis has very low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient responsible for the “high” that users of regular cannabis commonly experience.
Patients suffering from terminal conditions are eligible to receive and use cannabis with normal THC content, which Florida law calls “medical cannabis.” Terminal patients are defined as those who are expected to die within one year of diagnosis without “life-sustaining procedures.”
A patient certified for medical marijuana may not at any one time possess more than a 45-day supply of the medicine.
Florida law does not permit patients to grow their own marijuana for medical use. Smoking of medical marijuana is prohibited in all circumstances, though use of a vaporizer is permitted if specifically recommended as the mode of administration by the ordering physician. The law also prohibits transfers of medical marijuana to anyone other than a qualified patient or their legal representative.
Florida law on medical marijuana use also states that it “does not exempt a person from prosecution for a criminal offense related to impairment or intoxication resulting from the medical use of low-THC cannabis or medical cannabis or relieve a person from any requirement under law to submit to a breath, blood, urine, or other test to detect the presence of a controlled substance.” Section 381.986(9)(f), Florida Statutes.
- chronic seizures
- chronic muscle spasms
- Terminal conditions
To obtain medical marijuana, a patient should first consult with a physician who has completed the requisite training for recommending and ordering medical cannabis. A list of physicians in Florida who are licensed to order medical marijuana may be found at the following link: http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/office-of-compassionate-use/_documents/completed-cme.pdf
A physician will not recommend medical marijuana unless he or she diagnoses the patient with a qualifying condition and then treats the patient for that condition for at least three (3) months. For terminally ill patients, their terminal condition must be confirmed by a second independent evaluation from a board-certified physician before such patient can qualify for “medical cannabis” with normal THC-content.
Additionally, a physician will not recommend medical marijuana to a patient unless the physician determines that the risks of using such medicine are reasonable in light of the potential benefits to the patient. The patient must also provide the physician with written consent to treatment with medical marijuana, which consent must be given voluntarily and only after the physician has explained to the patient the current state of knowledge concerning medical marijuana treatments, the potential risks and side effects of such treatments, and any medically acceptable alternatives.
If the physician determines that treatment with medical marijuana is appropriate and the patient provides appropriate written consent to such treatment, the physician will then enter an order for medical marijuana in the compassionate use registry. Physicians are not permitted to enter orders for amounts that would exceed a 45-day supply of the medicine.
After the physician enters the order in the registry, the patient may fill that order at a qualified dispensing organization, which will verify the identity of the patient or his or her legal representative as well the actual order in the registry. More information on the dispensing organizations that have been licensed in Florida is available at the following link: http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/office-of-compassionate-use/dispensing-organizations/index.html
Note on current status of medical marijuana sales in Florida: The Department of Health must authorize the cultivation, processing and sale of medical marijuana by the dispensing organizations. Although, the Department has authorized six organizations to begin cultivation of medical marijuana, it has not yet authorized any sales of medical marijuana. According to the website of the Office of Compassionate Use, medical marijuana is expected to become available for sale to Florida patients by September 2016. Please check that website for updated information.
Note on registration cards: Under Florida law, a dispensing organization may not provide medical marijuana to a patient or his or her legal representative unless the latter presents a valid and active registration card. The law requires the Department of Health “to establish a system for issuing and renewing registration cards for patients and their legal representatives, establish the circumstances under which the cards may be revoked by or must be returned to the department, and establish fees to implement such system.” Section 381.986(7)(f), Florida Statutes. Additionally, the law sets forth specific information that each registration card must contain and states such cards shall expire within one (1) year from the date of the first order of medical marijuana for the qualifying patient. On April 8, 2016, the Office of Compassionate Use published on its website a Notice of Rule Development stating that the Department is in the process of developing Rule 64-4.011. That rule will address the process for receiving registration cards by patients and their legal representatives and related fees. Please visit the “Resources” page on the Office of Compassionate Use website for up-to-date information (http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/office-of-compassionate-use/resources/index.html.
Only physicians who have completed required 8-hour course and examination are approved by the state to recommend cannabis for medical use. If the physician diagnoses the patient with a qualifying condition and all other requirements for recommending marijuana treatment are met, the physician will enter an order for the medicine through the compassionate use registry. That registry is the only method for ordering medical marijuana in Florida.
Once a physician enters an order for a patient in the registry, that patient will be linked to that physician and will not be able to receive orders from another physician. The registry is specifically designed to prevent a patient from being registered by multiple physicians at the same time. If a patient desires to switch a physician, the primary physician must deregister before a new physician can start using the patient’s registry account to issue future orders.
Florida law allows a patient’s "legal representative" to assist in the acquisition and administration of medical marijuana products. Please see “Becoming a Caregiver” section.
Patients do not have access to cannabis in dried flower form, nor are they allowed to combust their medicine in order to inhale it.
Additionally, patients cannot use or administer medical marijuana in the following locations:
- on any form of public transportation,
- in any public place,
- in their place of employment if restricted by his or her employer,
- in a state correctional institution,
- on the grounds of a preschool/primary school/secondary school,
- on a school bus or in a vehicle, aircraft or motorboat.
Please note: Florida law specifically provides that a patient or legal representative commits a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment or a fine, if he or she uses or administers medical marijuana “in plain view of or in a place open to the general public, on the grounds of a school, or in a school bus, vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat.” Section 381.986(3)(d), Florida Statutes.
Patients of any age are eligible for medical marijuana; however, patients under the age of 18 must be diagnosed with an eligible condition by two physicians, and a concurring diagnosis must be placed in the patient's medical file.
Florida law requires confidential treatment of patient information in the compassionate use registry. Please see Section 381.987(3) of the Florida Statutes for a list of exceptions to that confidentiality requirement.
There are no housing protections for patients under Florida law.
There are no employment protections for patients under Florida law. The law specifically excludes from legal protection use or administration of medical marijuana in a patient's place of employment, if such use is restricted by the patient’s employer. Section 381.986(1)(g)(3)(c), Florida Statutes.
Florida law is silent on whether health insurance must provide coverage for low-THC cannabis therapy.
With respect to use of medical cannabis by terminal patients, the law requires those patients to acknowledge in writing, as part of the requisite informed consent, that the patient’s health plan or third-party administrator is not obligated to pay for care and treatment subsequent to the use of medical cannabis unless required to do so by law or contract.
Out of State Patients
Only patients registered as permanent residents of the state of Florida are eligible for legal protections under Florida’s medical marijuana law.
Florida law exposes persons to criminal penalties for fraudulently representing to a physician that the patient is suffering from an eligible condition for purposes of obtaining medical marijuana or a marijuana delivery device. The law deems such fraudulent representations as first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or up to $1,000 in fines. Section 381.986(3)(c), Florida Statutes.
 Florida law defines “terminal condition” as a “progressive disease or medical or surgical condition that causes significant functional impairment, is not considered by a treating physician to be reversible even with the administration of available treatment options currently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, and, without the administration of life-sustaining procedures, will result in death within 1 year after diagnosis if the condition runs its normal course.” Section 499.0295(2)(d) of Florida Statutes.