Some Backround Information About Medical Marijuana In Florida
Before we begin, let us say that reporting on cannabis laws is a tough job at the moment. Not because it’s controversial, but because by the time you finish writing an article about cannabis policy, things have changed. This is certainly the case when writing about the Florida medical marijuana program. In fact, the program has been in a state of flux since it was first instituted back in 2015. And it doesn’t look like the rate of change will change any time soon.
Here’s a little background for you.
Between 1978 and 2014 several attempts were made to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Florida with no success. Then, in 2014, Florida legislators passed the “Charlotte’s Web” bill. The measure allowed the use of low-THC, high-CBD extracts for the purpose of treating a short list of serious conditions such as intractable epilepsy.
Amendment 2 went into effect in Florida back in January 2017. At the time of writing, early Feb. 2019, incoming governor Governor DeSantis has all but ordered the legislature to enact the will of the people and overturn a ban on smokable forms of marijuana put in place by conservatives. They claimed that the amendment that the voters approved didn’t specifically mention smoking as a form of consumption.
Furthermore, cannabis advocates in Florida are not done yet. New petitions are circulating in the state. One of them is an attempt to allow medical patients to grow their own marijuana, another to legalize recreational use by adults. And others are expected to follow before the 2020 elections come around.
What are the Prerequisites for Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Florida?
Okay, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of getting your Florida medical marijuana card.
Not anyone can just waltz into any doctors office and get hooked up. A few planets need to align, so to speak.
First of all, as you might imagine, you must be a resident of the state in order to get a Florida medical marijuana card. The usual suspects will get you past that hurdle, such as a Florida driver’s license or state-issued I.D. A passport would also work.
If you can’t prove you’re a resident of the state, you’re just dead in the water before you get out of the harbor. If you can prove you’re a resident, then the next hurdle is to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program. In order to qualify, you need to be suffering from one of a list of medical conditions. Let’s look at that.
What are the Qualifying Conditions in Florida for Getting a Medical Marijuana Card?
When Florida first enacted a very limited medical marijuana program back in 2014, the only qualifying medical conditions wer severe epilepsy or a terminal illness. And patients had to have tried traditional treatments to ease their suffering before they could be considered eligible for the program.
After numerous attempts to expand the program since it’s introduction voters approved an initiative in 2016 which amended the state’s constitution to not only expand the medical qualifications of the program but also to create a state-regulated medical marijuana market including a system of vertically integrated cannabis companies which are licensed to both produce and sell cannabis products (except smokable buds and resins).
Here’s the latest of qualifying conditions list in Florida:
- Crohn’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification
- Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above
- Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition
In addition to these qualifying conditions, doctors may approve a similar illness for which they deem medical marijuana will be effective. This essentially takes the decision of who gets to use medical marijuana out of the hands of Florida lawmakers and puts in the hands of doctors, where it belongs.
If you’ve got your proof of residence and you believe you have one of the listed conditions and thereby qualify for the program, you’re ready to make some moves.
Additional Medical Conditions That Have Qualified Patients include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Back Pain
- Cyclical Vomiting
- Hepatitis C
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome[IBS]
- Lyme Disease
- Muscle Spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Severe & Chronic Pain
- Severe Nausea
- Sickle Cell Anemia
- Wasting Syndrome
Patients are allowed to purchase and use smokable cannabis flower, CBD and THC oils (vape or oral drops), tinctures, capsules, patches, and topicals. Home delivery is also available. Unless they have $100 million and a cultivation license, patients cannot grow their own medical marijuana.
Steps to Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Florida
In order to get a medical marijuana card in Florida, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops, but thousands have gone through the process unscathed.
First, you’ll need to gather your medical records. Then you’ll need to make an appointment with a state-certified doctor. And then you wait.
Step 1 — Get Your Medical Records From Your Current Doctor
If your current doctor is also a state-certified medical marijuana doctor then you can just skip this step. If that’s not the case, then you have to get your medical records from your current doctor.
Requesting your medical records can be a little daunting if you’ve never attempted this before, but it’s not that complicated. Of course, you’re going to need to fill out a form. If your doctor doesn’t have a standard form, you can simply put your request in writing. You’ll need to give them your name, SSN, date of birth, address and phone, email, a list of the records that you’re requesting, and the approximate dates of service. You’ll also need to tell them how you want them delivered — via mail, email, in person, etc. Make a copy of your request before you submit it so you have it for your records. Once your request has been submitted it may take some time to get your records. Ask how long it will take and follow up.
If, after repeated attempts, your health care provider fails to deliver your medical records your next course of action is to contact the Department of Health and file a complaint. Just as an FYI, your medical records cannot be withheld for non-payment for services rendered.
What if your doctor is no longer in practice? By law, all medical records must be maintained one way or another. If your doctor has left a practice that is still operating, your records must be maintained by that practice. If the practice closes altogether, then the medical records are typically transferred to another health care provider, in which case you should be notified.
Keep in mind that there may be some expense involved in getting your medical records, but it’s generally not unreasonable.
What if you don’t have a doctor or any medical records? If this is the case, simply contact a state-certified doctor and tell them your situation. Tell them what condition you’re dealing with and make an appointment to discuss it.
Step 2 – Make an Appointment With a State-Certified Medical Marijuana Doctor
For most people who are thinking of climbing on board a medical marijuana program for the first time, talking to a doctor about it seems to be the part that causes the most apprehension. Keep in mind that, by now, most Florida-certified doctors in the state have had to deal with plenty of patients who are considering using marijuana extracts to treat their symptoms. Although it may be your first rodeo, it’s almost certainly not theirs.
Just so you know, in order to be certified by the state, the doctor must attend a series of classes in the use of marijuana and cannabis oils as medicine.
Once you decide upon a doctor with whom you’d like to make an appointment, the next step is simple. Call them and tell them you want to make an appointment.
Most likely you won’t be able to stroll in the same day or even the same week. In fact, the next available appointment could be weeks away. You’ll have to be patient (no pun intended).
Step 3 — Talk To The Doc
It should go without saying that you should arrive at your appointment on time and make sure you have your medical records and I.D. If all goes well, the doctor will see you shortly.
The doc will ask you a series of questions about your ailment including your diagnosis, what symptoms you’re experiencing, which treatments you’ve tried in the past, what you’re doing currently to treat your condition, and anything else they deem relevant.
If you’ve been seeing a doctor specifically for one of the ailments on the list of qualifying medical conditions, you’ve got a leg up. The next leg up requires a little more than just having one of the conditions. Technically, your doctor isn’t supposed to approve you for a medical marijuana card unless you’ve tried traditional treatments and they have failed to produce results.
Having said that, many doctors are sympathetic to the fact that cannabis might be a much safer and effective treatment for your condition than traditional pharmaceuticals and have mercy on you.
If the doctor determines that you are, indeed, eligible for the Florida medical marijuana program they’ll enter your info into the Florida Marijuana Use Registry (aka the Compassionate Care Registry) which is run by the Florida Department of Health.
Your doctor will determine an optimal THC dosage which in turn sets a limit to how much product you are allowed to buy each month. A doctor may also limit your meds to low-THC products if he or she thinks there might be safety issues with the use of high-THC products.
Physicians’ fees may vary, but you’re looking at around $150, give or take to get an examination.
Step 4 — Complete Your Application Online
Once you’ve gotten the all clear from the doc, and you’ve been added to the Compassionate Care Registry you’ll still need to complete the process online before you receive a card by mail.
You’ll also be required to remit a $75 application fee.
It can take some time for the DOH to review your application and issue an MMJ card. Patients have reported waiting periods of up to two months.
You don’t actually need the card to purchase medical marijuana, but it’s a good idea to carry it with you at all times in case there’s a run-in with the law. You will, however, need your state I.D. or passport to even get your foot in the door.
Where To Buy Medical Marijuana Near You
Once all of the above is taken care of you’ll be able to purchase cannabis products from any state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary.
There are scores of licensed dispensaries across the state. And if there’s none in your neighborhood you may be able to have your medicine delivered to your door.
Florida medical marijuana patients can purchase medicine from registered marijuana dispensaries officially known as Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs).
Dispensary locations are popping up like weeds, or roses, throughout the state. The total number of dispensaries allowed in Florida exceeds 400 under the state law. Florida Dispensary Prices vary, although many dispensaries will deliver medicine to authorized patients across the state.
Medical cannabis products generally cost between $35 and $115. The average purchase is between $150 and $250.
Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, banks are reluctant to do business with dispensaries, therefore sales are generally cash-only. Credit cards are usually not accepted. However, many dispensaries accept CanPay, which is a prepaid debit style card.