Medical marijuana has had a tumultuous history in Florida, especially in recent months in light of the November rejection of Amendment 2, which would have legalized the use and distribution of the drug for medical purposes. That may be all about to change however thanks to a recent ruling from a Tallahassee judge. In fact Florida regulators anticipate that they will be able to provide access to a limited supply of a non-euphoric strain of the drug for medicinal use by the end of the year thanks to the dismissal of the final challenge to the bill back on May 27th.
“I am one happy legislator,” declared Representative Matt Gaetz, one of the original sponsors of the 2014 legislation that attempted to speed up development and cultivation of low euphoric inducing marijuana to help patients suffering from epileptic seizures, cancer, and other illnesses.
Legislators had originally intended for this medical strain of marijuana to be available to patients in Florida by January of 2015, but their first proposal was rejected, which was then followed by a series of legal challenges. The May 27th ruling offered new hope to patients who have long been suffering without access to medical marijuana and it’s benefits.
“Today's ruling allows the department to move forward with implementing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, approved by the legislature in 2014...The department remains committed to ensuring safe and efficient access to this product for children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer. We are moving swiftly to facilitate access to the product before the end of the year,” the Department of Health said in a statement.
The ruling was issued by Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins and came after two days of testimony and more than a year after the Florida Legislature originally passed the law. Coincidentally Watkins is the same judge who tossed out the Department of Health’s first attempt at a rule last year. That rejection caused the Office of Compassionate Use to hold a rulemaking workshop that included a panel of advisors representing various aspects of the industry.
Under the law about 100 nurseries in Florida meet the eligibility requirements to apply for one of five licenses to grow and distribute Marijuana according to the Florida Department of Agriculture. Those requirements are that a nursery has been in business for at least 30 years and grow a minimum of 400,000 plants. In addition potential dispensaries will have to prove that they would be able to stay in business for at least two years and be able to cover the bond and any start-up costs as well.
In light of this victory Gaetz hopes Florida as cleared the final hurdle. “It is my hope that when licenses are issued we will not have another round and we can get medicine into the hands of the vulnerable as soon as possible,” he said.