With the medical marijuana initiative up for a Florida vote in three months, regulators are already working on rules that will shape the legal cannabis industry in the state. One of the most pressing concerns involves the implementation of a law that allows patients access to a non-intoxicating cannabis derivative–one variety being known as “Charlotte’s Web”–beginning on January 1, 2015. In addition, the vote scheduled on November 4 will also determine the legal status of a broader scope amendment to the state’s medical marijuana law.
This early on, Amendment 2 is already receiving the lion’s share of attention from state regulators. As Medical Marijuana Business Association director and longtime lobbyist Jeff Sharkey said, the passage of the amendment seems to be more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Citing widespread voter support for the amendment, Sharkey emphasized that the most pressing concern would be how the distribution of medical marijuana would be structured by the Department of Health. For Sharkey, there is a definite need to meet the needs of an ‘expanded’ [medical marijuana] patient base.
One of the key characteristics of Amendment 2 is that it would legalize a much broader use of medical cannabis. The amendment also will not restrict the availability of medical marijuana to the low-THC strains currently allowed under existing laws. Although critics of the law have voiced concerns that it would lead to the availability of medical marijuana to patients suffering from relatively ‘vague’ health issues, proponents say that the law will be subject to the same details and restrictions imposed on similar medical marijuana regulations proposed in Florida.
Rep. Matt Gaetz who was instrumental in the passage of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 said that the Florida laws will address the concerns of a limited number of state residents, which he defined as having “true qualifying ailments”. This group includes children that have been diagnosed with seizure-related conditions for which medical marijuana has proven to be beneficial. For Gaetz, this group comprises a ‘small universe’ of seriously ill patients. The representative also referred to Amendment 2 as ‘de facto recreational marijuana’, saying that there has been a ‘more tailored approach’ to medical marijuana laws in the past.
Initial regulations allow patients access to low-intoxicant marijuana derivatives which have relatively low tetrahydrocannabinol content, but high cannabadiol content. Cannabadiol has been identified as the key ingredient in marijuana that is one of the most beneficial in terms of dealing with a variety of symptoms, illnesses, and health conditions. Even with this distinction, the Florida regulations have been hotly debated and lobbyists have set about positioning themselves in what is expected to be a highly profitable medical marijuana market in the fourth-largest state in the U.S.
Gaetz for one is satisfied with the current implementation of the new Florida medical marijuana laws under the administration of Gov. Rick Scott. For the representative, the most important issue is that ‘vulnerable’ patients with a legitimate need for the drug will finally have access to their medicine in January 1, 2015.