Medical marijuana in Florida has had challenges since the very start. Low THC non smokable marijuana was approved by legislature to treat cancer, epilepsy and conditions that cause chronic seizures and spasms. In March 2016 it was expanded to allow a higher strength marijuana to be used by people with terminal illnesses. It took the state about 3 years to get the medical marijuana program off the ground and, even now, there are only 538 doctors, 2,997 patients and 7 licenses given to those who want to open a dispensary. Progress has been slow but, last November, over 70 percent of Florida voters chose to expand the list of qualifying conditions and allow all strains of marijuana to be legalized. The new law came into effect on January 3rd of this year and officials have only 6 months to put it into place with marijuana sales needing to begin in September.
Protesting the 90 Day Wait Time
While it might seem that the road ahead for medical marijuana in Florida should be a breeze after 3 years of working to put things into place, things aren’t that simple. Some of the regulations and requirements outlined in the law have created controversy with activists, patients and doctors alike banding together to protest them. A big issue for many is that the law states that a patient must be under a doctor’s care for at least 90 days before being able to get marijuana. For many, getting sick happens quickly. 90 days can feel like an eternity when you are suffering in physical pain. People are slow to visit a doctor for an ailment and by the time they do, they need relief quickly.
The Constraints of Qualifying Conditions
Another complaint is that doctors should be able to decide which patients would benefit from medical marijuana. Activists do not want the state’s physicians to be restricted by the list of qualifying conditions. They want qualified doctors who have closely examined patients in charge of how they will be treated. In general, people want the relationship with doctors to mean that they can get examined and recommended for treatment should the doctor deem it to be the best course of action with no restrictions or delays.
Public hearings held all over the state, echoed these 2 complaints as members of the public made their thoughts known. Officials are reviewing all of the testimonies so a new law can be created that will better serve patients and doctors alike. 2 bills in the Senate are in development right now which may further offer solutions but they won’t be seen until early March.
Demand Exceeding Authorized Supply
Another fairly big issue facing the medical marijuana industry in Florida, is that there are only 7 licensed dispensaries and they already have problems servicing all of Florida’s 5 regions. Other business owners are ready to step in and help with supply but the amount of licenses distributed in the state would need to be increased.
Overall, progress is being made step by step in Florida but it still may be a little longer before the state has found its flow. Amendment 2, the law that expanded Florida’s medical marijuana program, is expected to serve 400,000 Florida residents and generate $1 billion a year.