Georgia should learn a lesson from Florida’s medical marijuana disaster
On June 16, 2014 Governor Rick Scott signed into a law a measure that lawmakers hailed as the answer to the demands of thousands of sick Floridians, who have been begging for the right to consume medical marijuana to treat serious health conditions for years. Instead, what politicians gave thousands of languishing, very sick patients was false hope and empty promises.
First, Florida’s low THC oil law is possibly the most restrictive in the country because it only allows access for patients who suffer from cancer or seizures. Despite all of the ballyhoo and fanfare the truth of the matter is that Florida’s so-called “medical marijuana law” is not, because it does not provide ANYONE access to medical marijuana, and the patients that are supposed to benefit under the law are not, and probably will not.
The second problem is that because lawmakers chose to only add two qualifying conditions to the list, the companies who are ultimately successful in obtaining a license from the state to grow marijuana and produce low THC oil will have an extremely limited client base to draw from (around 20,000 patients will qualify according to a report from MJBizDaily). Of those 20,000 potential patients a limited number will actually seek certification from their doctor, so a company that spends between $7 million and $10 million to launch faces the prospect of failing to reach very demanding financial goals.
So why are these companies willing to spend so much money to grow marijuana in Florida based on such an uncertain return? Because they know how incredibly broken Florida’s medical marijuana law is and they know it will be repaired in the future, either through legislation or a citizen initiative, so they are placing their bets now that they will be perfectly positioned to grow a full range of medical cannabis strains (not just CBD) when full medical marijuana comes along. An attempt to correct many of the flaws in Florida’s medical marijuana law, Senate Bill 528, failed this year in the legislature.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, because of the way the law was written, doctors who follow it to the letter may still be violating federal law. This is because the law places an extraordinarily heavy burden on doctors, directing them to violate federal law by actually placing the order for the patient’s medicine and dispensing it to them. Because physicians need a federal DEA license to prescribe medication, they are very unlikely to openly break federal law, which means that Florida’s now 16 month-old “medical marijuana law” is almost surely unworkable.
Frequently asked questions about Florida’s medical marijuana law
What does the law legalize?
In theory a very small number of patients will be able to purchase low THC oil that contains .8% or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and at least 10% cannabidiol (CBD). If these ratios sound arbitrary to you then you are not alone.
Who qualifies for the program?
Only patients with cancer or a “physical medical condition that chronically produces spasms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms” are eligible.
Is a medical marijuana card issued?
No ID cards are issued by the state. Instead, the patient’s physician adds them to the Compassionate Use Registry and then orders the low THC oil for them.
How many growers will be allowed under the current law?
At some point officials will choose five businesses to be the official medical marijuana growers, oil producers and “dispensaries” for patients in the state. These five facilities must be located in geographically diverse areas of the state (one-each for northwest, northeast, central, southeast and southwest Florida), and only nurseries that have been in business for over 30 years may apply for a license to grow marijuana and produce low THC oil.