Senate Passes Legislation to Expand Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana

Jun 9 • 304 Views • View Comments

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Senate Bills Implement Voter-Approved Constitutional Amendment

The Florida Senate today passed Senate Bill 8A, Medical Use of Marijuana, and Senate Bill 6A, Public Records/Medical Marijuana Use Registry/Physician Certification for Marijuana and Dispensing/Department of Health. Together, the bills implement Article X, section 29 of the Florida Constitution, which allows the use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions.

“This legislation demonstrates fidelity to the Constitution by fully and faithfully implementing the constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters last November,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “The legislation also affirms our commitment to local control by allowing local governments to regulate the location of dispensing facilities. In addition, the legislation enhances research opportunities that will allow scientists and physicians to study and improve this medicine for our fellow citizens who are suffering from serious medical conditions and illnesses.”

“We are committed to fulfilling our constitutional duty to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters,” said Senator Bradley. “This patient-first legislation removes barriers for both patients and physicians, expanding access to this medicine. The legislation will also help strengthen the patient-physician relationship, while ensuring safety through a unified regulatory structure for each component of the process from seed to sale. Additionally, the bill clarifies that like other medication, medical marijuana is exempt from state and local sales tax.”

Patients, Caretakers, and Physicians:

Senate Bill 8A requires patients to be certified by a licensed Florida physician as having at least one qualifying medical condition. If a patient is younger than 18 years of age, a second physician must also agree. The following are qualifying medical conditions:

  • Cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS);
  • A medical condition of the same kind or class as those listed above; or
  • Chronic nonmalignant pain that is caused by one of the enumerated qualified medical conditions or that originates from a qualified condition and persists beyond the usual course of that condition.

The legislation also requires physicians to complete a 2-hour course and examination offered by the Florida Medical Association or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. The course must be completed upon each licensure renewal.

Further the bill, establishes requirements for physicians prior to certifying a patient and after certification. A certifying physician must:

  • Determine that medical marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks to a patient;
  • Check the patient’s prescription history in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database; and
  • Recertify every 30 weeks.

Senate Bill 8A also removes the three-month treatment prerequisite for patients. Patients and caregivers must provide proof of residency, register with the Department of Health (DOH), and possess an identification card. The DOH is required to create and maintain an online medical marijuana use registry for patients, caretakers and physicians.  The bill clarifies that edibles and vaping are permitted, while smoking is prohibited.

Tax Exemption:

Senate Bill 8A provides a permanent tax exemption for medical marijuana and marijuana delivery devices. Medication in Florida is tax exempt.

Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs):

Senate bill 8A requires the DOH to license MMTCs as vertically integrated entities to cultivate, process, transport, and dispense low-THC marijuana, medical marijuana, and medical marijuana delivery devices. The DOH is further required to license the existing Dispensing Organizations (DOs) created under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act as MMTCs as soon as practicable, no later than July 3, 2017.

The DOH is required to award ten additional MMTC licenses as soon as practicable, but no later than October 3, 2017.

Moving forward, the legislation requires the DOH to award four additional MMTC licenses for every 100,000 active patients in the medical marijuana use registry. MMTCs must have their products tested by marijuana testing labs certified by the DOH.

Dispensing Facilities:

Senate Bill 8A restricts the number of dispensing facilities each MMTC may initially establish to 25.  MMTCs are allowed to operate five additional dispensing facilities for every 100,000 active patients in the medical marijuana use registry.  DOH will determine the number of dispensing facilities per region for each MMTC. The number of dispensing facilities per region will be calculated based on a region’s population relative to the state’s overall population.

MMTCs are authorized to sell unused dispensary slots to another MMTC. An MMTC that buys such an unused slot may utilize the slot only within the same region in which the slot could have been used prior to the purchase. The buying and selling of slots will increase or reduce an MMTC’s statewide and regional maximums regarding the number of dispensaries it may operate.

The bill provides a sunset date for the dispensing facility cap to expire on April 1, 2020, and requires dispensing facilities to look and feel like a physician’s office.

Local Control:

Senate Bill 8A allows local governments to regulate the location of dispensing facilities and provides that a local government may ban dispensaries within its borders. However, if a local government permits dispensing facilities, it may not impose limits on the number of dispensing facilities.

Research and Education:

Senate Bill 8A creates the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the Moffitt Cancer Center to conduct scientific research, provide education, disseminate research, and guide policy on the ordering and dosing practices for the medical use of marijuana. DOH is required to implement a statewide marijuana education and illicit use prevention campaign regarding the health effects of marijuana use, particularly on minors and young adults. Further, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will implement a statewide impaired driving education campaign to raise awareness and prevent marijuana-related and cannabis-related impaired driving.

Background:

In 2014, the Legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act to allow patients suffering from cancer or a condition that chronically produces seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms to use low-THC cannabis. In 2015, the Legislature enacted the Right to Try Act, which authorizes an eligible patient with a terminal condition to receive an investigational drug, biological product, or device. In 2016, the Legislature expanded the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act to allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis under the Right to Try Act. Additionally, changes were made to the regulatory structure within the Department of Health to increase oversight and address previous roadblocks during implementation.

In November 2016, Florida voters approved an amendment to the State Constitution creating Article X, section 29, Medical Marijuana Production, Possession, and Use. The amendment creates several exemptions from criminal and civil liability related to the medical use of marijuana for qualifying patients, physicians, treatment centers and caregivers.

 

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