This past November Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 which legalizes medical marijuana. The state had previously rejected a similar amendment in 2014, though there currently is existing limited medical marijuana availability in the state. Previous to the most recent Amendment 2, only terminally ill patients were allowed to access THC containing marijuana to help aid with their symptoms.
Under the recently passed ballot measure, people with a variety of terminal and non-terminal medical conditions will be able to access marijuana as medicine. A variety of medical conditions have been approved for medical marijuana use in the state including: cancer, HIV/Aids, MS, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, or any other comparable medical condition. The ability for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to any patients they deem to have comparable conditions to those listed above greatly opens up the population of people who will be able to access and benefit from medical marijuana.
It is estimated that 400,000 - 500,000 people could be eligible for medical marijuana in the state under the new requirements, providing many more people with a medication that could truly help to relieve their symptoms. Florida provides an interesting dichotomy to traditionally pro-marijuana states because 36.9% of the population of Florida is over 50, an age group that only supports full marijuana legalization at a rate of 35%. Across all age groups, however, there is an 89% approval for medical marijuana, so it can be inferred that more of the over 50 population supports medical marijuana than full scale legalization. Medical marijuana legalization in Florida, however, passed in a landslide of 71%, meaning that it required at least some support from all age groups to be able to pass. Florida is also just one of multiple red states in the recent election that chose to support marijuana legalization in some capacity.
Florida still has a way to go before full scale implementation of its medical marijuana bill is able to take place. The Florida legislature plans to meet in March to begin to discuss the framework of medical marijuana use in the state. Their goal is to complete and pass a law by June, which would allow patients to acquire cards as early as September of 2017.
Between June and September, infrastructure for medical marijuana in the state will be able to expand and set up. Currently the state has only six marijuana dispensaries, which serve the limited number of people who currently have access to cannabis. Other important factors need to be sorted out, like the relation between medical marijuana patients and their employers.
Under the recently passed amendment, employers have absolutely no requirements to allow patients with medical marijuana cards to consume cannabis so employers are allowed to maintain zero tolerance policies if they desire without facing backlash for discrimination. Florida’s medical marijuana program has a long way to go, but it bodes well for people in the state to be able to access medication to help ease their suffering.