Florida legalized the use of medical in a 2016 referendum. It came into effect in the state in January 2017, allowing patients suffering from a debilitating medical condition to legally buy and use medical marijuana. While it is available for some patients in Florida, federal law still deems it illegal.
If you want to start using cannabis as a patient, it is important that you know the Florida medical marijuana law and what it entails. This comprehensive guide should help you figure out what the law allows and what and how you can enjoy the privileges that it brings to patients like you.
Who can use medical marijuana in Florida?
Only Florida residents with certain debilitating medical illnesses are legally protected by the Florida medical marijuana law, specifically the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative cited in Amendment 2. These medical conditions include the following:
- Crohn’s disease
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- multiple sclerosis
- chronic muscle spasms
- Parkinson’s disease
- post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- other medical conditions with similar symptoms or severity as the previously mentioned conditions, as determined by a doctor’s opinion
Some of the conditions that may qualify under the last broad category include depression, premenstrual syndrome, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders, arthritis, endometriosis, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, and gastrointestinal disorders.
How to register to become a Florida medical marijuana patient
If you are a Florida resident, you can apply to be a legal medical marijuana patient by submitting your application to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use in Florida. Here are the steps that you should follow:
- Get a certification exam from a qualified physician.
A qualified and registered physician can examine you and determine if you should use medical marijuana. Doctors conduct an initial exam, study your medical history, and diagnose your condition. The typical cost of a consultation with a qualified physician varies, but it usually ranges from $150 to $250.
Take note that your prescription is only valid for 30 weeks, after which your physician will be required to sign off again.
Minors and terminally ill patients need to consult a second physician to confirm the diagnosis.
- Enroll and get a medical marijuana use registry ID card.
If the doctor diagnosed you with a debilitating condition that warrants the use of medical marijuana according to the Florida medical marijuana law, he will put you on the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (MMUR) by entering your patient information and email address and approve an order.
- The OMMU will email you, complete with the direction on getting your MMUR ID card and the application process. You will also be provided with a patient ID number.
- You, or your caregivers, must finish the process by submitting an application to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use through the Internet or via mail. Aside from the application form, you should submit a proof of residency or a photocopy of your state ID and the $75 fee. For mailed-in applications, you also need to send an approved passport photo.
And no, you don’t have to be a resident of Florida to get access to medical marijuana. The Florida medical marijuana law allows “seasonal residents” with debilitating conditions to be registered as medical cannabis patients. These seasonal residents refer to those who live in Florida for 31 consecutive days each calendar year.
- You will receive another email to confirm whether you’re approved as a medical marijuana user.
- While waiting for your registry ID card, you can order cannabis from a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) using your approval email.
What orders your qualified physician might enter in the patient registry
The Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use patient registry will require an order that will specify the type of medical cannabis that you can buy, your recommended daily dose, and the number of days your order will remain active. Your physician may give you suggestions, but the ultimate decision on what strain and specific product you will use is still up to you.
Your physician can enter two orders – one for medical cannabis and the other for low THC. There is very little THC present in low THC products so they do not come with psychoactive effects, but they have a lot of healing CBD. On the other hand, medical cannabis products are high in THC so brace yourself for its psychoactive effect.
In your order, your physician may enter up to two delivery methods. Most patients choose inhalation and oral methods, although topical method of consuming medical marijuana is also available. Inhalation products that you can get from dispensaries include cups and vaporizer cartridges. Oral products include syringes, tincture, concentrates, and capsules.
What you should know about using the medical cannabis card
The Florida medical marijuana law requires potential medical marijuana users to obtain an ID card so they can buy approved orders of the medical herb. You need to bring this ID card with you at all times to a state-approved MMTC as part of the verification of your purchase. Law enforcers and other individuals check this card to confirm or verify that you are registered at the Florida database as a medical marijuana patient.
Sending the application is the most time-consuming part of the process in getting a medical marijuana card. You may have to wait for up to two months for the Department of Health (DOH) to review your application and issue your ID card.
Medical marijuana registry ID cards only have a one-year validity. It should be renewed 45 days before it expires by submitting a renewal application and paying another $75 for the registration fee. You also need to have another in-person examination with a qualified physician and pay another $150 to $250 in consultation fee.
It should be noted that Florida does not honor medical marijuana cards issued by other states. In the same way, your Florida-issued medical marijuana card can only be used in buying cannabis products in any of the state’s MMTCs.
While you may have successfully obtained your ID card, it does not meant that you can grow, process and distribute weed. Only licensed dispensing organizations are allowed to do such, according to the Florida medical marijuana law. Those who are suspected of violating this law will be investigated by local law enforcers. It is worth remembering once more that despite a favorable state law, federal law still considered marijuana illegal.
Things to remember about the use of medical marijuana in Florida
Unfortunately, the medical marijuana you bought using your ID card can only be used within Florida. Transporting it across state lines might have you facing local and federal charges. If you really need to travel with cannabis outside of Florida, make sure to inquire with the Bureau of Health first to know local laws to avoid violating any of them.
If you are traveling to a state that implements a legal medical cannabis program, you can get a letter of medical necessity signed by your qualified physician so you can still get your medication outside of Florida. Dispensaries licensed in other states generally accepts such type of letter.
You or your qualified caregiver can only buy up to 70 days’ worth of marijuana products from a licensed MMTC.
When you consume medical marijuana, you may not necessarily get a high. Physicians who prescribe cannabis for patients consider your needs and preferences. In some patients’ cases, though, a certain drug combination may cause them to experience a euphoric high.
As to how much medical cannabis you should consume, it is up to your physician. The law requires that you consult with your doctor first before using. And only the qualifying patient is allowed to consume medical cannabis. According to the Florida medical marijuana law, you cannot smoke medical cannabis.
You are only legally allowed to buy medical cannabis from a state-approved local dispensary. Otherwise, you can be cited by law enforcers even if you have a prescription. When you get pulled over carrying marijuana products, you need to show the police your medical marijuana card and proof that you bought the products at a licensed dispensary.
Medical marijuana, unfortunately, is not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. You have to pay for it in cash, which is why many patients found the cost of consulting a qualified physician and buying the medical cannabis itself as prohibitive.
Even if you are consuming medical cannabis, driver under its influence is still illegal and punishable by law in Florida. Violators will receive punishments similar to those who commit alcohol DUIs, which meant that you will face up to six months in jail or pay up to $1,000 in fines. But penalties become more severe with every conviction.
The Florida medical marijuana law prohibits the consumption of medical cannabis in any public place, so you cannot use it at school or in the office without permission from your employer. You also cannot use it aboard a public bus, motor vehicle, aircraft, train or watercraft. You can only use medical cannabis at home.
How you might lose your medical marijuana recommendation
There are certain factors that might prompt the Department of Health to revoke or suspend your registration as a medical marijuana patient in Florida. These include the following:
- Providing incorrect, misleading, or fraudulent information to DOH
- Altering, falsifying or modifying an ID card
- Obtaining marijuana products in an amount greater than what the qualified physician has recommended
- Failing to notify the DOH on time about any changes in your patient status
If you want to qualify for the Florida medical cannabis program, make sure not to commit the violations above. That way, you can keep using your medical marijuana registry ID card and renewing it without any problem in the future.
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