While Florida legislators might not be in the Willie Nelson mindset some may hope, 2023 still looks more promising than any year before. Since Florida voters passed Amendment Two and legalized medicinal marijuana in 2016, ads for marijuana doctors are popping up in local weeklies, on cabs, and even on billboards. But don’t let them fool you—we are a long way from becoming a weed haven like Colorado.
Like pretty much everything in Florida, there are still befuddling questions about how the whole thing works. To help iron out the state’s confusing weed laws, we talked to a few experts with intimate knowledge of the subject: Robert Chavez, an executive healthcare consultant formerly with the University of Miami Health System; Steve Berke, CEO of Bang Holdings, a publicly traded cannabis ad-tech company; marijuana activist Robert Platshorn; Dustin Robinson, Founder of Mr. Cannabis psychedelic and cannabis law firm; and attorney Daniel Russell. They gave us the skinny on legalization of weed in Florida including who qualifies for medicinal marijuana, who can sell it, and what else to expect from cannabis laws in Florida in 2023 and beyond.
Is weed legal in Florida?
This is one of the few parts of the law that’s pretty straightforward. No, but cannabis is legal for medicinal use.
How do I get a prescription for medical marijuana?
You, the patient, go to a doctor who’s state certified to prescribe medicinal marijuana (more on those later). These are the guys you see advertising as “pot docs” on billboards, who charge anywhere from $150 to $250 for an examination. You must show you have one of the approved conditions, and, more importantly, that you’ve tried other treatments that haven’t worked. This prevents you from inventing “anxiety” to get legal weed.
If the doctor signs off, you send your application and a check for $75 to the Florida Department of Health, which within a few weeks, will send you a card you can take into a dispensary to purchase your pot. Once you have said card, you’re placed on the Compassionate Use Registry (basically a list of all the people in the state who have been prescribed marijuana). Your prescription is only good for 30 weeks, at which point you’ll need a doctor to sign off again. After one year you’ll need to have another in-person examination or online consultation (more on that later), which will cost you another $250 or so.
What are the approved conditions?
Strolling into the local pot doc and saying you have “chronic pain” ain’t happening. Medicinal marijuana treatment is limited to a few conditions, specifically ALS, anxiety, anorexia, arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis (MS). The law also allows for “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class,” meaning, for example, if you have an autoimmune condition like lupus, a doctor could prescribe marijuana for that. The caveat is meant for people with less common conditions and is not broad language designed to allow doctors to prescribe for anything.
How do doctors qualify to prescribe medical marijuana?
Chavez told us that anyone with a medical degree and at least one year of post-graduate residency qualified for a medical license, and therefore could prescribe medicinal marijuana after completing the state-mandated two-hour course. God bless Florida. You can search for approved doctors here.
Can I get my medical marijuana prescription through telehealth?
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida authorized telehealth visits for the renewal of medical marijuana cards. Recently the legislature introduced HB 387, which would allow renewals via telehealth, though you’d still need to go in person to get your initial prescription. The ever-swift state government is still passing the bill through various committees and houses, so stay tuned.
Where can I buy medical marijuana in Florida?
Just because you have a medicinal card doesn’t mean you can just call up your source down in Kendall and it’s all hunky-dory with the cops. You can only buy medical marijuana in Florida at a state-approved dispensary like Sunnyside or Cannabist. There are more than 555 statewide dispensaries run by 22 licensed companies. You must buy from one of them, or you can be cited by police even if your marijuana is legally prescribed. Get pulled over with your state-approved THC oil, and you’ll need to show the cops your card AND proof you bought it at a licensed dispensary.
What kind of products can I get?
You can get your supply in pretty much all your favorite THC delivery forms: edibles, inhalation, oral, sublingual, suppository, topical, and good old-fashioned flower. Each category has its own specific set of limits. For example, edibles have a daily dose max of 60 mg THC, and the 70-day supply limit is 4,200 mg THC.
In mid-2022, Florida also revised its prescription limit regulations for people with med cards. Basically, a doctor can prescribe up to three, 70-day supply limits of marijuana or six, 35-day supply limits. You can find a list of limits and surrounding rules here.
Will insurance pay for medical marijuana?
Nope. And neither will Medicare or Medicaid. You need straight cash, homie. Or maybe a credit card if you want to rack up some frequent flier miles.
Can my employer fire me for using medical marijuana?
Some states have statues saying employers cannot terminate someone for using medically prescribed marijuana. But if you know anything about Florida, you can probably guess why we do not have said protections. Still, Robinson says that doesn’t necessarily mean you have no recourse. “In Florida, we don’t have a specific statute, so it means you can fire someone,” he says. “But I think it’s a gray area. I’ve represented multiple employees who’ve been terminated for medical marijuana and they all settled.”
How does this affect stuff like background checks and federal benefits?
Veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD, are especially concerned with the ramifications of medical marijuana. As the law stands now, even if veterans have legally prescribed marijuana for that condition, they might be stripped of their benefits because the drug is still federally illegal. This varies from case to case, however.
Is recreational weed coming to Florida anytime soon?
Hopefully, yes. Trulieve, who owns a plurality of the dispensaries in Florida, put $30 million towards a potential 2024 ballot initiative to legalize adult use, according to Robinson. He believes this is a pretty good sign considering a) it immediately out fundraises previous initiatives by about $4.8 million and b) the funding was for a single-topic constitutional measure, which he says are far more likely to pass. In sticking to a single issue, though, it means stuff like home growing will have to wait for another time.
As of April 2023, the petition for the amendment has about 636,000 of the 891,500 signatures it needs to get on the 2024 ballot. What’s more, the Florida Supreme Court must also approve the wording of the amendment to ensure it’s only covering a single issue. Robinson said that’s expected to happen in June, so a statewide vote next November is looking pretty good. And if we can get 60% of Floridians to agree, then recreational weed might be just a couple of years away.
So, yeah. We’ve gotta take baby steps. But if the day comes when the Ocean Drive sidewalk entrepreneurs are replaced by big green neon crosses, it’ll be yet another reason for many locals to avoid it like the plague. But for others, it’ll be yet another reason Miami is such a fantastic place to visit. And if nothing else, it will make for some fantastic ads. (Full Story)