Will you be lining up to sell medical or recreational marijuana in Florida soon? How do you feel about your neighbor smoking legal cannabis on their back porch right next to yours? This day may be coming sooner than you think. You don’t have to go to Amsterdam to legally smoke pot anymore, now you can go to Colorado or Washington. Florida may be next!
The trend of legal medical marijuana over the last few years in the United States has been the gradual loosening of state marijuana laws. Although federal laws have not changed, the drug is still classified as a Class I controlled substance; yet the Obama administration has said it will “not enforce” the Federal Laws which designate marijuana as a Class I controlled substance. More recently, the Department of Treasury issued guidance to banks stating that, “Regardless of the Federal Statutes making it a crime for a bank to hold drug money, the Treasury Department will not enforce this law at this time in reference to money coming into a bank from a marijuana vendor.
Based on the fact that the federal government is loosening its enforcement of Federal Law against marijuana, both Colorado and Washington have passed recreational marijuana laws. In fact, twenty one states have passed medical marijuana laws. While Florida legislature has considered several bills this year, none appears to be ready for passage.
In November all Florida voters will get a chance to vote on the issue and express their opinion on this matter of nationwide interest. The Florida Ballot in November will contain a medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which if passed, will allow the use of marijuana if prescribed by a physician for treatment of a “Debilitating Medical Condition”. A “Debilitating Medical Condition” is described in the proposed Amendment as cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn‘s disease, Parkinson‘s disease, multiple sclerosis or other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient. The amendment also puts deadlines on the state government to adopt regulations regarding licensing for “marijuana middle men” who are going to be able to track patients and dispense the drug with a valid prescription.
To get over the fact that the governor might not enforce the Amendment even if passed, the Amendment requires the state to adopt regulations to enact the Amendment. With the current administration, this will likely be stymied. The law requires the state to adopt rules within 9 months of the passing of the Amendment; otherwise any citizen has the right to file a court action to force the state to comply with the Amendment. This will force compliance through the courts.
The Amendment attempts to provide protections for abuse of the drug by providing an id card to all patients authorized to take the drug. These patients will be able to purchase the drug and supplies at licensed “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers”. Each patient will also have a licensed personal health worker assigned to them.
So, you want to become a medical marijuana treatment center owner? Be careful, regardless of the Amendment the Federal Law on the books in the United States will still make it a crime. A new administration might decide to enforce Federal Law which will set up a challenge between the adopted Florida Amendment and the Federal Laws. IF you are still into this new business possibility, you will have to wait at least 9 months after the Amendment is adopted to open your shop. At that point, you will have to get licensed, which could take equally as long.
By: Theodore Jay Hamilton