Should Amendment 2 pass in Florida, medical marijuana will become the law of the land. Once the law is passed, the Florida Department of Health will have six months to decide how to regulate and implement medical marijuana. During the regulatory process there will be a lot of voices jockeying for a seat at the table.
One voice that will most likely be heard over the others is the group United For Care because they have been instrumental in getting Amendment 2 off the ground and have spent a considerable amount of money on the issue. Recently, one of their local chapters, Florida For Care, released their regulatory recommendations for the state should Amendment 2 pass.
The goal of these recommendations is to address the complaints from opponents that Amendment 2 is full of loopholes. So how well do these proposed guidelines do in closing the alleged loopholes? To find out, let’s take a look at some of the loopholes and see how the proposed regulation addresses it.
One of the complaints about Amendment 2 is that you only have to be a licensed physician, not a doctor, to recommend medical marijuana. The argument goes that this will lead to a ramp up for so-called “pot-docs” that more or less pimp out their prescription pad to paying customers.
However, under the proposed regulations, recommending physicians will have to have had previously treated the patient before recommending medical marijuana. While this may seem like a tiny hurdle, this will prevent more abuse than one might realize.
One of the fears people have about medical marijuana is being able to easily walk into a “pot-doc” shop and walking out with a recommendation. By lengthening the process, you keep pot tourists out of the system, eliminating a number of unforeseen variables.
The proposed regulation also requires the recommending physician complete at least two hours of medical education and subsequent testing. While their heart is in the right place with this rule; two hours every two years seems far too low a threshold to weed out the less than qualified physicians. The Department of Health would do well to adopt this rule, but up the number of hours to something more substantial.
The next loophole medical marijuana opponents complain of is the lack of restrictions placed on minors. Opponents claim Amendment 2 will allow any teenager to walk into a dispensary and buy marijuana. To address that complaint the proposed guidelines bans the purchase of medical marijuana by minors and requires a parent or guardian present in order for medical marijuana to be recommended.
Medical marijuana critics have been quick to jump on the caregiver provision in Amendment 2, calling it the “drug dealer loophole” because it does not specify who can or cannot become a caregiver. Under the proposed guidelines, convicted felons could not become caregivers unless they are a relative of the patient or if their rights have been restored. Caregivers for minors must be appointed by the parent or legal guardian.
Unfortunately, there is no mention on the maximum number of patients a caregiver can see. To prevent caregivers from becoming a mini-dispensary with less regulation, a patient limit needs to be placed on caregivers.
If the proposed guidelines were accepted as is, medical marijuana dispensaries would not be able to operate within 1000 feet of a school or drug rehabilitation center, but there is no provision banning dispensaries from residential zones. While I would love a dispensary down the block from my house, most people would not. Something should be done to keep dispensaries in commercial areas, if only to silence the critics.
While not perfect, Florida For Care’s medical marijuana recommendations do a decent job of addressing legitimate concerns of voters in Florida. If Amendment 2 passes, expect to see representatives from Florida For Care at the regulatory table. That means we can expect to see some of these proposed rules make it into the final legislation. While the rules will be tweaked and changed in the process, it is good to get an idea of what the regulations will look like now so you can make your business plans for later.