Doctors can’t prescribe marijuana in Florida. Here’s why.

Seventy-one percent of Floridians were pretty pumped when they found out Florida would be legalizing full-strength medical marijuana after voting for it on Nov. 9.

That became official when it was added to the Florida Constitution in early January.

While it means that doctors can recommend full medical marijuana to more patients, for a larger range of conditions, you can’t just go ask your doctor to give you some weed for your headache.

The whole thing is kind of anticlimactic. Amendment 2 can’t go into effect until the Legislature works out the laws. It’s going to stay in this weird gray area for awhile, with a lot of unanswered questions. We’re going to try to answer yours as best we can.

What other questions do you have? Let us know here.

How can I become a “caregiver” or “dispensary”?
What sort of conditions can marijuana be prescribed for?
What type of marijuana will be available?
What type of marijuana will be available?
I’m a cancer patient. What do I need to do get access to medical marijuana?
I haven’t seen any dispensary / clinics anywhere in Miami yet. Where will it be available? Will I need a card from a doctor? That’s how they do it in California.
Can I grow hemp and make hemp oil?

How can I become a “caregiver” or “dispensary”?

You can’t become a caregiver yet because the Department of Health is still figuring out the rules. They have until July to define the rules, and then nine months from January (aka November) to actually implement them, according to an e-mailed statement from Sarah Revell, Media and Marketing Manager from the Florida Department of Health.

Right now there are seven dispensaries that grow and distribute marijuana. Those were licensed under the Compassionate Care Act, a marijuana law that was passed in 2014 that was much more limited than Amendment 2.

The Department of Health isn’t accepting any new applications right now.

Here’s how those terms are defined, by the way: Under Amendment 2, a caregiver is a person 21 years or older who has agreed to help a patient with the use of their medical marijuana. They also have to qualify for and have a caregiver ID card from the Department of Health.

A dispensary isn’t individually defined in the amendment. Instead it uses a broader definition of a medical marijuana treatment center, or MMTC, according to attorney David C. Kotler, who formed a practice entitled Medical Marijuana Business Lawyers, LLC to advise clients on issues relating to Florida medical marijuana laws. A MMTC grows, keeps, and processes marijuana products (including food, tinctures, or oils) and distributes them. It’s also registered under the Department of Health.

What sort of conditions can marijuana be prescribed for?

Technically, none. Because marijuana is still illegal federally, it can’t be prescribed, like on a prescription pad.

It can only be RECOMMENDED. But in this case, a recommendation basically functions the way a prescription would.

Currently a doctor has to take an eight-hour course and have a three-month long relationship with the patient before he or she can recommend medical marijuana. The doctor is then given access to a registry and can put patients on it. Here’s a list of approved physicians.

A doctor can recommend a low-THC marijuana for patients with cancer or a chronic medical condition that produces seizures or muscle spasms or a full strength marijuana for people with a terminal illness.

Once the Department of Health sorts out all of the nuts and bolts of Amendment 2, the list of conditions will expand to include debilitating medical conditions including:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Or any other debilitating medical condition of the same kind or class as/or compared to those listed and for which a doctor believes the medical use of marijuana would outweigh the potential health risks.

The Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax said doctors can use their discretion on whether or not to recommend marijuana while the rules are being written.

What type of marijuana will be available?

Currently, a low THC type is available for patients suffering from cancer, seizures, and muscle spasms, and a full THC type for those suffering from a terminal illness.

Amendment 2 doesn’t limit the level of THC that can be in a strain of marijuana.

Would a marijuana prescription and/or “license” to purchase (whatever system is chosen) be protected for privacy under HIPAA?

The Department of Health says this: “Yes, that is considered patient information and is protected.”

But Kotler says it’s an argument in the industry right now. HIPPA is federally mandated privacy. “So, how do you apply that same law to something that’s not federally legal?,” he challenges

Practically speaking, the industry and physicians will probably choose to apply it just as one would in any other medical situation.

I’m a cancer patient. What do I need to do get access to medical marijuana?

Regardless of where Amendment 2 stands, after you’ve had a three-month relationship with a physician who is certified to recommend it, you can get it.

Currently, a doctor can recommend medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act, but it would be at a really low dose of THC (unless you’re terminally ill). The problem is, many cancer patients who seek to use cannabis want a higher level of THC to help with the pain and appetite loss, Kotler says.

After Amendment 2 laws are worked out, you can probably get a full THC strain as long as the guidelines are met, which are still TBD.

I haven’t seen any dispensaries/clinics in Miami yet. Where will it be available? Will I need a card from a doctor? That’s how they do it in California.

There’s one in south Miami-Dade called Modern Health Concepts. There are seven total in the state, licensed under the Compassionate Use Act, but beyond that any new dispensaries probably won’t open until 2018 at the earliest, Kotler predicts.

Under Amendment 2 you would need a card but it’s not issued by a doctor — it’s issued by the state. And getting one will probably be harder than in California.

Can I grow hemp and make hemp oil?

Nope, says Kotler. Florida is not a state that has hemp laws under the Farm Act of 2014. There is no legal way in Florida that you can currently grow hemp because it technically comes under cannabis, which is a controlled substance in Florida.