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The State of Medical Marijuana in Florida
2020 Grade: C
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
The Sunshine State’s medical program saw a few notable improvements since the publication of last year’s report. In 2019, the Florida 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that the forced-vertical integration language of 2016’s Amendment 2 is unconstitutional13, an action which could greatly expand the number of licensed medical retail locations. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in May of 202014, and a decision is expected later this year. Florida’s population of registered patients and medical retail locations continue to expand. Dispensaries grew from 88 at the beginning of 201915 to 250 as of the latest update.16
The COVID emergency measures adopted during 2020, included declaring cannabis businesses essential, authorizing use of telehealth visits for program registration renewals, and both curbside pick-up and delivery. ASA encourages Florida to maintain beyond the COVID emergency and enable patients to renew enrollment via telehealth.17
A statewide hemp production program was approved in 2019, and the Florida Department of Agriculture opened the licensing application portal for hemp cultivators in April of 2020. Once the program is operational, Florida patients will be able to enjoy the benefit of CBD manufactured by in-state producers, which should reduce prices and expand product availability.
While these are positive developments, Florida patients still struggle with other ease of access issues. Caps on cannabinoid content continue to limit product options, while a weak caregiver infrastructure makes accessing medicine difficult for patients with mobility issues. Additional improvements must also be made related to laboratory testing and consumer safety standards, as well as product labeling.
In 2014, the Florida enacted SB 1030, which created a registry ID card system that would allow patients with cancer, seizure disorders, or severe or persistent muscle spasms to possess and use only cannabis products rich in CBD and low in THC. SB 1030 also established a state licensing system for dispensaries, where patients can obtain legal access. In 2016, the Florida legislature passed HB 307, which expanded the program to terminally ill patients and allowed dispensing organizations to produce products with higher levels of THC than were previously allowed. That same year Florida voters approved Amendment 2, which amended the state constitution to create a comprehensive medical cannabis program with significantly expanded qualifying conditions.
In a 2017, emergency session the legislature passed SB 8A, which provides a framework for patients to access cannabis more quickly. Rules for implementing SB 8A were promulgated by the The Florida Department of Health in July of 2017. Stripped from Amendment 2 was language permitting the inhalation of cannabis from the burning of cannabis flower, however a 2018 county court decision and subsequent 2019 state legislative activity culminated in the state authorized smoking of cannabis.
Surveyed patients report that the cost of medical cannabis is still a big issue. Some surveyed patients express concern that the quality and selection of medicine is lacking compared to other states. Other surveyed patients wish there were more dispensaries in the state and that they could pay for their medicine by credit card. They would also like access to edibles, to maintain deliveries to patients, and for telemedicine to be made available in the future.