Will Florida Become the First Southern State to Legalize Medical Marijuana?

If Florida voters authorize medical marijuana in November, they’ll be the first state in the South to legalize the drug for therapeutic reasons. They’ll also make Florida, potentially the third largest market outside of California and New York, one of the only states in the country to enshrine medical marijuana in the state constitution. It would also become one of the only states giving doctors considerable discretion to recommend the drug outside of a specific set of diseases. It’s on that last point that opponents of Florida’s Amendment 2 have focused the most attention, arguing the measure grants doctors too much leeway. And they’ve raised $3.2 million, mostly with cash from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to put the measure down. But supporters, who have raised even more money in large part with the resources of one sympathetic trial lawyer, appear to have public opinion on their side. Polls have fluctuated wildly, though. The most recent one, released Thursday, pegged support at 57 percent — tied for the lowest yet — but backers need to hit 60 percent to pass a constitutional amendment.  A Quinnipiac University poll in July put support at 88 percent, six percent higher than another Quinnipiac poll from November 2013. Marijuana’s potential for relieving chronic pain is one of many therapeutic benefits cited by proponents, but there’s disagreement over the benefits and influential quarters of the medical establishment remain skeptical. The American Medical Association, for instance, doesn’t endorse recreational use or state-based medical programs, but the group — like others — supports changing the drug’s status as a highly controlled substance and expediting research. Critics of U.S. drug policy have long wanted the Food and Drug Administration to relax its position on marijuana, saying it discourages research and the kind of formal clinical trials needed to better establish legitimacy. The University of California at San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, however, has performed clinical trials since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and has found the drug provides relief from muscle stiffness and spasms among patients suffering from multiple sclerosis and from pain in patients suffering from serious disorders such as AIDS. But while the U.S. has been more reluctant to formally study the medicinal benefits of marijuana, Israel has become a research powerhouse and established the drug as a treatment for conditions as varied as post-traumatic stress and Parkinson’s disease. Pollara argues the FDA’s reluctance shouldn’t hold back people who find relief in marijuana. Florida was already caught up in a wave of recent state laws (many of them in the South) legalizing cannabis oil made from a part of the plant that doesn’t get users high but has gained a foothold in treating epilepsy. Advocates say other southern states will surely follow Florida’s lead, because there’s already visible support. “The Southern states have been slow to come around in terms of changing policy, despite majority support for medical marijuana, so passing an effective medical marijuana law in Florida would be a big step and hopefully help nearby states realize that it is time to enact compassionate legislation and that these programs can be regulated successfully,” said Morgan Fox, the spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. By legalizing medical marijuana that contains THC, the psychoactive ingredient, Florida would join 23 other states and the District of Columbia. Eleven of those states legalized medical marijuana in just the past four years, signaling growing acceptance among the American public, which now narrowly supports full recreational use as well. All but a few, including California and Massachusetts, however, limit the number of diseases...

read more

Florida legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes

Florida became the 23rd state in the nation to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 1030 (the “Charlotte’s Web” bill) back on June 16, with overwhelming support of Florida citizens and the Florida legislature. The bill passed 111-7 in the House and 30-9 in the Senate. ABOUT SB 1030 In its most simple form, SB1030 decriminalizes a medical professionals’ recommendation and patient’s use of a particular strain of a low-THC cannibis for specific medicinal purposes. It means a doctor can ‘order’ the usage of a certain strain of cannabis for treatment of specific ailments as outlined in the bill. These ailments include cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, other physical medical conditions that chronically produce symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, and its original intended purpose – pediatric epilepsy (the strain named ‘Charlotte’s Web’ after Charlotte Figi, a five-year old who experienced a reduction of seizures after taking the drug.) The physicians must be appropriately licensed and patients must be Florida residents. The physician must add the patient to the newly formed “compassionate use registry.” It allows for five (5) companies to be licensed to cultivate, process and dispense the approved strain in an oil format. These companies would be based in four corners of the state, and one in the center of the state. It does not allow a smokable form of marijuana; only the oil form is included in the legislation. PROS Florida is on the forefront of this issue, and it is setting a precedent for other Southern states, which traditionally may not support what is perceived as a ‘blue state’ issue. Florida has been bi-partisan in this initiative, and that is definitely a positive. The bill opens the doors for doctors to recommend an effective treatment program for their patients that, according to a number of studies, can be cost effective; has fewer side effects; and strong healing possibilities. The bill allows for our state universities with agricultural and medical programs to conduct research to develop new forms of treatment; a great opportunity for medical advancement to take place in Florida.   CONS The Bill creates a monopoly in the hands of five businesses, severely limiting competition and free enterprise. More research and public inquisition needs to be done to determine exactly who these five companies are, what criteria is being used to select them, how they will be regulated, and to whom they report. While the last minute expansion of the Bill allows for additional ailments to be covered, there are still hundreds of thousands of Floridians who will not be covered under the legislation, such as those with HIV/Aids, Alzheimer’s, dementia, mental disabilities (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and others. The bill only allocates $1 Million to oversee the entire “cannabis” program; leaving room for potential corruption and...

read more

Florida State Bill (SB 1562) Filed Allowing For Recreational Marijuana Use

In the latest twist in a debate about legalizing marijuana in Florida, Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, filed a proposal Friday that would allow the recreational use of marijuana. The bill (SB 1562) likely has little chance of passing the Republican-dominated Legislature. But it calls for allowing people who are 21 or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and also would allow them to cultivate up to six marijuana plants. The proposal also would create a regulatory structure that deals with issues such as the sale and taxation of marijuana. The proposal comes as Florida voters prepare to cast ballots in November on legalizing medical marijuana. Also, lawmakers are considering proposals to legalize a marijuana extract that can help some children who have a form of epilepsy and suffer from severe...

read more

Florida’s (Current) Marijuana Law

  Below are the summary details of Florida’s current marijuana law, as of March 2014. Decriminalized? — No. Medical Program? — No. Possession of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 20 grams is a felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Possession of 25 or more plants is a felony punishable by 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Distribution or cultivation of 20 grams or less is a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Distribution or cultivation of 25lbs or less is a felony, punishable by 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Distribution or cultivation of 25 to 2,000lbs (or 2,000 plants) is a felony, punishable by a minimum sentence of 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. This is in addition to federal penalties. Distribution or cultivation of 2,000 to 10,000lbs (or 10,000 plants) is a felony, punishable by a minimum of 7 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. This is in addition to federal penalties. Distribution or cultivation of 10,000lbs (or 10,000 plants) or more is a felony, punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison and a $200,000 fine. This is in addition to federal penalties. Distribution or cultivation within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, public housing, daycare center, or church is a felony, punishable by 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of 25 or more plants is evidence of intent to sell or distribute, and is a second degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Conviction of a drug related offense also requires suspension of the offender’s driver’s license for at least six months but no longer than 2...

read more

More States Consider Legalizing Marijuana

Despite the drug still being illegal under federal law, the Obama administration has said it will not interfere with the roll-out of legal marijuana in the states for several reasons, including whether the state is successful in keeping it out of the hands of minors. At least 14 states — including Florida, where an initiative has already qualified for the ballot — are considering new medical marijuana laws this year, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalization, and 12 states and the District of Columbia are contemplating decriminalization, in which the drug remains illegal, but the penalties are softened or reduced to fines. Medical marijuana use is already legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. An even larger number of states, at least 17, have seen bills introduced or initiatives begun to legalize the drug for adult use along the lines of alcohol, the same approach used in Colorado and Washington, but most of those efforts are considered unlikely of success this year. The allure of tax revenues is also becoming a powerful selling point in some states, particularly after Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado said last week that taxes from legal marijuana sales would be $134 million in the coming fiscal year, much higher than had been predicted when the measure was passed in 2012. In Rhode Island, which is struggling financially, national and local advocates for legalization say the Colorado news is sure to help legislation introduced in February to legalize the drug. “Some feel it’s not an appropriate issue for an election year, and others want to wait and see what happens in Colorado,” said State Senator Joshua Miller, a Democrat who is sponsoring the Rhode Island legalization law. “But a lot of other people are very anxious to take the revenue part of this very seriously.” Opponents of legalization, meanwhile, are mobilizing across the country to slow the momentum, keeping a sharp eye on Colorado for any problems in the rollout of the new law there. “Legalization almost had to happen in order for people to wake up and realize they don’t want it,” Mr. Sabet said. “In a strange way, we feel legalization in a few states could be a blessing.” California had been considered a possibility to legalize marijuana this year through a ballot proposition — one to do just that failed in 2010 — but the Drug Policy Alliance, which had been leading the effort, decided this month to wait until 2016. While much of the recent attention has focused on these legalization efforts, medical marijuana may also cross what its backers consider an important threshold this year — most notably in the South where Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are among the states considering such laws. John Morgan, an Orlando lawyer whose firm includes former Gov. Charlie Crist, has spent $3.6 million of his own money to get a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot in Florida, where a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in November showed that eight in 10 Florida voters support medical marijuana. State law requires 60 percent to pass. Mr. Morgan insists that his initiative is not intended to help Mr. Crist, a Republican turned Democrat, reclaim the governorship. Election data, compiled by Just Say Now, a pro-marijuana group, showed that the percentage of the vote that came from people under 30 increased significantly from 2008 to 2012 in states that had marijuana initiatives. This youth vote, predominantly Democratic, rose to 20 percent from 14 percent in Colorado, and to 22 percent from 10 percent in Washington, both far above the 1...

read more