Patients, Doctors Get Green Light For Medical Marijuana
Patients who qualify for medical marijuana under a voter-approved constitutional amendment can start purchasing cannabis treatments in as little as 90 days, according to the state's top pot cop.
Whether patients would be able to start buying medical marijuana before the Department of Health approves rules to carry out the amendment — a process that could take at least six months --- has been a source of confusion for many doctors, patients and businesses.
Florida law already allows full-strength medical marijuana, but only for terminally ill patients, as well as low-THC, or non-euphoric, marijuana for patients with epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms or cancer. Under the law, doctors must treat patients for at least 90 days before being able to enter orders for any type of cannabis treatment into a statewide database.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 2, during the Nov. 8 election. Some doctors started a push to establish three-month relationships with patients — charging as much as $400 for a preliminary visit— even before the amendment became law on Jan. 3. Others questioned if doctors could do so because the current law restricts physicians to ordering full-strength marijuana only for terminally ill patients.
But on Wednesday, state Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax told reporters that it is up to doctors to decide if they want to order marijuana for patients with medical conditions eligible for treatment under Amendment 2, months before new rules are expected to go into effect.
Bax said doctors should follow both the current law and the constitutional amendment, which authorizes marijuana for patients with a wide range of medical conditions, including Parkinson's disease, glaucoma, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Crohn's disease. Doctors can also order the treatment for patients with conditions similar to those listed in the amendment.
But Florida Medical Association General Counsel Jeff Scott warned doctors to tread carefully.
"The department today basically left it up to physicians to decide how they will incorporate the provisions of Amendment 2 into their practice. Given the lack of any regulatory framework, I would advise physicians to proceed with extreme caution," Scott says.
Bax said Wednesday that the health agency is "committed to moving as quickly through rulemaking as possible to create a regulatory framework" for the amendment and plans to release initial rules "very soon."
Bax said he plans to hold five public workshops on the proposed rules throughout the state. The amendment gives health officials until early July to promulgate rules and until September to put the regulations into effect.