Medical Marijuana: Understanding November’s Ballot

By Mark NeJame: Vanessa Louise Braeley contributed to this article.

Medical Marijuana in Florida

Published on October 20, 2014 | By Mark NeJame; Vanessa Louise Braeley contributed to this article.

Mark your calendars and note your polling location now, Florida residents, for this year’s ballot is sure to bring out the crowds. Front and center is the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2. The November 4, 2014 Ballot Title and Summary will read:

BALLOT TITLE: Use of Marijuana for Certain Medical Conditions

BALLOT SUMMARY: Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allow caregivers to assist patients’ medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.

Florida needs a supermajority vote of 60 percent of those voting on Amendment 2 in order to decriminalize marijuana for medical use. Currently, Florida is one of the three states with pending legislation on legalization of medical marijuana. Almost half the country has passed legislation in favor of its use, with regulations varying from state to state. This proves to present some obvious problems if or when the Federal government opts to legalize marijuana. But how does Florida plan on approaching this new industry?

  • Medicinal marijuana users will not receive an actual prescription. This is because in order to issue prescriptions for narcotics, a physician must register with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level, a doctor prescribing Schedule 1 narcotic marijuana would lose their license. Instead, physicians issue a “certification” – which is nothing more than a letter of recommendation. The Department of Health would then issue an identification card, which in turn would be used to obtain marijuana from state approved and regulated centers.
  • Medicinal marijuana patients will not be allowed to grow their own plants as to not vitiate state regulations.
  • Qualifying diseases include HIV/AIDs, Cancer, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. This is not an exhaustive list, however, as the Florida Supreme Court has qualified conditions that would “cause impaired strength, weakness or enfeeblement.” This suggests conditions such as muscle spasms, neck pain, back pain and menstrual cramps may qualify for physician certification.
  • The constitutional amendment contains six limitations on how the amendment’s language can be construed: *
    • The amendment does not “affect laws relating to non-medical use of marijuana, possession, production or sale of marijuana.”
    • The amendment does not authorize “the use of medical marijuana by anyone other than a qualifying patient.”
    • The amendment does not allow for the “operation of a motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft while under the influence of marijuana.”
    • The amendment does not require accommodations for medical marijuana use “in any place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.”
    • The amendment does not require “any health insurance provider or any government agency or authority to reimburse any person for expenses related to the medical use of marijuana.”
    • The amendment does not require “the violation of federal law or purports to give immunity under federal law.”

What’s important to understand is that the nation’s legal evolution appears to be in favor of decriminalization of medical marijuana. States like Colorado are the litmus test for new industry, and they are certainly faring well – at least in tax revenue. As the conversation continues and existing laws evolve to shape this foreign landscape, decisions to vote for or against these initiatives must be made objectively and informed. So keep current on this topic, Florida, because it won the popularity contest and may be here to stay…

Mark NeJame - Orlando Attorney

Mark NeJame
Orlando Attorney and Legal Analyst