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Understanding the medical marijuana law in Florida

For many decades, marijuana and all of its active compounds have been illegal in the United States. That includes Florida, which penalizes possession and other marijuana offenses relatively harshly. As of January, 2017, though, some people may qualify for legal protections under the Florida medical marijuana program. However, the Department of Health has taken longer than expected to create and implement rules.

The new law allowing for medical marijuana is the culmination of years of work by activists, but the results of that work are still unknown. The Department of Health has managed to miss meeting every major deadline so far regarding creating and implementing rules. There have also been other serious delays, including long wait times for cards for patients in the state registry.

Florida limits who can use medical marijuana and how

In order to qualify for the protections of the state medical marijuana program, people must pay a $75 state fee and submit an application that includes a prescription from a doctor. Patients must obtain a prescription from doctors who have special state certifications. An appointment can cost between $150 to $250 for the visit.

Only those with qualifying conditions under state law can receive a prescription. Those conditions include:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson's disease
  • ALS
  • Anxiety
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Arthritis
  • Anorexia
  • Glaucoma

There is also some leeway. Doctors can prescribe marijuana for "other debilitating medical conditions" if they are similar to approved conditions.

The Florida law also limits legal medical marijuana patients about where they can obtain marijuana. The only legal source is a state-approved dispensary. Any other source can result in a citation by law enforcement, even if you have a registry card.

There are limits on what the dispensary can sell you as well. The state currently only allows for extracts, oils and tinctures. Smoking marijuana is not covered under the current law, but the Department of Health will eventually expand its rules to include edibles.

Even patients could face legal consequences under the law

There's no question that Florida's law has taken a long time to implement. There are many people who could qualify for the program who can't afford the expenses involved. Those who qualify may want to grow their own marijuana to keep costs low, but that is a violation of the law as well. Anyone who wants to participate in the medical marijuana program should carefully review the law and ensure that they will comply with the terms of the law at all times.

Those caught without their registry card, those who buy from unregulated sources, those who smoke marijuana and those who grow their own marijuana could all still face very serious criminal penalties under Florida law.

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