31 Mar SB 182- THE NEW MARIJUANA LAW AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENTS
There has recently been a new marijuana law made in the state of Florida titled SB 182.
Limitations on Medical Marijuana
In 2016 Florida voters took a stance on medical marijuana. Over 70% of citizens voted in favor of an amendment that would make the practice legal within the state.
However, a year later when lawmakers made decisions on implanting the amendment, tight restrictions were put into place. This included the banning of smoking marijuana, even if it was medical. When previous Governor Rick Scott signed the bill, only marijuana in a pill, oil, vape, or edible form was legalized. This decision bothered many Floridians who found it unfair since voters had already made their decision on the issue. Some medical patients rely on the full effects that come from smoking the flower in its natural form, making this decision inconvenient for many. This occurrence led to Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruling the ban unconstitutional. She justified the ruling by saying that it conflicted with the previous constitutional amendment that legalized the medical use of marijuana in Florida. The state Department of Health appealed her decision causing it to automatically stay.
Thankfully, newly elected Governor Ron DeSantis started his term with trying to make life easier for medical patients. The former governor administration was supportive of the appeal on the court decision and encouraged its duration. However, DeSantis started his term in January with immediately trying to fix this issue. He confronted the Senate and House of Representatives asking for fair legislation by March 15 or threatened to drop the appeal.
“What the Florida Legislature has done to implement the people’s will has not been done in accordance with what the amendment envisioned,” Gov. DeSantis said at a press conference on Jan. 17. “Whether they (patients) have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to be able to have their suffering relieved. I don’t think this law is up to snuff.”
Florida lawmakers responded with trying to find a way to satisfy everyone. Disagreements on key issues such as the health considerations of smoking and allowing minors to smoke made this task harder than expected. Eventually they were able to come to a consensus to find what works best for the public.
After the SB 182 Bill was passed recently by both the House of Representatives and Senate, supportive Governor Ron DeSantis released a statement saying: “The Florida Legislature has taken a significant step this week to uphold the will of the voters and support the patients who will gain relief as a result of this legislation.” He also signed the bill on March 18th, 2019, making everything official.
What is the New Marijuana Law?
The most popular part of the new marijuana law is that it is now legal to smoke flower. Medical patients are, with a doctor’s recommendation, allowed to receive up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flower every 35 days. Still, there is a limit of having no more than 4 ounces at a time in total. Smoking cannabis in public is still not legal.
Smokable cannabis will also be available for minors who have a terminal illness. Just as long as they have the approval of two different doctors first. Before the new law, the purchase of a marijuana delivery device needed to be from a medical marijuana treatment center. Though now they can purchase these devices at any 3rd party vendor. Another aspect of this bill is that the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education has turned into the Consortium for Medical Marijuana Clinical Outcomes Research. This consortium, as opposed to what it is replacing, will not be providing education on the issue. Its purpose will be to research the long-term effects of cannabis on the human body. It will consist of the work of public/private Florida universities and will receive 1.5 million for funding a year.
What’s Next for Florida?
This has been a big victory for Floridians who are struggling with their health, but the fight is far from over. The regulation of Florida’s medical marijuana industry is still very strict. There is currently a limit on the number of licenses that the state provides to Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC). What this means it that the amount of suppliers the state can have is restricted. This cap was meant to be temporary, serving a time period for legislators to evaluate working regulations. However, significant time has passed and there is no considerable reason to continue the obstruction of opening more dispensaries. These MMTC are also required to grow, cultivate, and sell their own product which can be a daunting task.
These limitations may seem like they only affect businesses, but they have a negative effect on medical patients as well. Competition between businesses allows the customer to get the best quality product at the best price, and this restriction is not allowing that. A limited number of growers eliminates competition and forces patients to just buy what’s available and close to them. Many patients have to travel far to their nearest dispensary, so going somewhere else is not an option. It causes them to pay higher prices and experience inconvenience, for no reason at all.
State legislatures say that they are working to get rid of the cap on the number of licenses, and the vertical integration that requires MMTC to grow, cultivate, and sell their own product. This would make life a whole lot easier for many medical patients across the state.
With over 160,000 medical marijuana patients in Florida, state lawmakers are facing many questions on how they will choose to control cannabis. Restrictive regulations on medical use left many patients dissatisfied and frustrated. The passing of SB 182, the new marijuana law, has been a big step for the medical cannabis community in Florida, giving many more patients access to what they need. The demand is rising for looser regulations across the state and it’s time for lawmakers to answer.