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Understanding the Medical Marijuana Legislation in Florida

This November, Florida could join states such as Illinois, California, and Colorado if a bill is passed by the legislature which would make the use of medical marijuana legal in the state of Florida. In response to this pending legislation, the south Florida town of Cape Canaveral has crafted its own local regulations in order to restrict the proliferation of medical marijuana treatment centers to specified commercial zones. This ordinance would also provide restrictions on the hours and days of operations for medical marijuana treatment facilities, and would require that such facilities not be located close to day care facilities and schools

A five-member Cape Canaveral council unanimously voted to approve the first version of the ordinance, which is scheduled for a final public vote and hearing on September 16. The ordinance was created in response to the fact that the current bill in front of the Florida state legislature did not explicitly identify buffer zones, which provide defined ranges around schools, churches, and similar institutions within which medical marijuana treatment facilities cannot operate.

The Fight for Medical Marijuana in Florida

For the past few years, medical marijuana laws have become a fixture in both local Florida and national news. High profile political figures within the state have been outspoken, expressing their dismay that such a law could be enacted in Florida. At the beginning of 2014, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Florida Attorney General’s claim that the ballot for the initiative titled “Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions” was a violation of Florida’s single subject law, and that this title was also deceptive in nature. However, following this rejection by the court, the Florida Secretary of State’s office officially announced that enough signatures had been obtained for the Florida medical marijuana petition. As a result, this petition, which will take the form of a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution, will be officially voted on in the November state elections.

The Medical Marijuana Amendment and Treatment Centers

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, all registered voters in the state of Florida will have the right to vote for the medical marijuana amendment, and a vote from 60% or more of voters is required for the amendment’s approval. Though medical marijuana use has not been officially approved, the Florida Department of Health has already offered some guidance about how such a program would operate. Some of the common illnesses that will allow a person to use medical marijuana include:

  • Crohn’s diseases;
  • Glaucoma;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • Cancer;
  • Hepatitis C;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and
  • Any other medical condition that is judged by a physician to be debilitating.

Importantly, for a patient to qualify for the program, their physician must determine whether the potential harms of medical marijuana use outweigh the benefits of such use. This consideration, along with that physician’s certification and prescribed time period for use, will be necessary for qualification. Once a patient has been registered for medical marijuana use, they will be protected from all criminal and civil sanctions under Florida state and local law that make marijuana use illegal. However, this registration does not technically preclude a user from being found guilty of violating federal laws regarding marijuana use and possession, though federal prosecution for such use has been almost virtually nonexistent.

The underlying concern that led Cape Canaveral to create its own ordinance governing medical marijuana distribution was based on the perceived need for a law that governs the placement of medical marijuana treatment centers. Under the amendment, private citizens/patients will not be able to cultivate their own medical marijuana. Instead, cultivation and sale of medical marijuana will be the job of state-regulated medical marijuana treatment centers. If the amendment is passed, the Florida Department of Health will have the duty of drafting operating rules for medical marijuana treatment centers, and such rules must be finalized no later than six months following the passage of the amendment.

A Miami Drug Crimes Attorney Can Help You

Of course, pending passage of the bill, those caught in possession of marijuana may still face criminal charges. And if you are currently facing any drug charges in Miami, contact JeffreyWeiner, P.A. to begin working on your case immediately.

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