The first business day of 2017, marks the start of medical marijuana in Florida. In 2016, the state became the first southern state to legalize marijuana, standing out among its conservative northern neighbors. Although marijuana is now legal in Florida, patients must wait while the state works out many specifics.
Becoming a Medical Patient
Although Florida previously allowed low-THC strains for a small number of conditions, their Right to Try Act did not cover many debilitating conditions. It also did not allow a wide enough variety of strains to treat many of the conditions patients suffer from. With legalization, the state covered more conditions, including glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.
The Florida medical marijuana program requires medical supervision by an approved physician. This is no easy task since the process for approving Florida doctors takes three months and includes an examination. At the moment, only 340 registered physicians treat just under 1500 patients. Many doctors are already, understandably, booked.
As if getting approved to use marijuana wasn’t hard enough, finding that marijuana won’t be any easier. Florida has licensed seven organizations to distribute marijuana to patients. Of those seven, five have received authorizations. At least one of those organizations will provide home delivery to patients.
The state will license three additional organizations after at least 250,000 patients register. To encourage diversity in the industry, the state designated one of those licenses for an African-American owned organization.
Although protected by the state law, many Florida cities are not welcoming dispensaries. As many as 55 cities have banned or restricted dispensaries, with a few more considering it. Tallahassee (near the Georgia state line), as well as the Gulf coast cities of Tampa and Clearwater, are currently the largest cities with dispensaries. These municipalities are very far from many of Florida’s most major cities as well as a significant amount of its population.
Just the Beginning
The legalization of marijuana in Florida was just the first step toward full access for those who need it. Voters won the attention of the state government, now it’s up to legislators to decide how it will be done. While patients get their medical cards, the country is watching to see how the South manages legal marijuana.