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florida

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Health officials in the state of Florida have issued new rules to be implemented within the state’s constitutional medical marijuana amendment.

The regulations that were shown to the public on Friday by the Department of Health use the same framework as a bill passed on June ninth by the State Legislature during a special session. Last month, the department showed an outline to the public where it would give a fifteen days notice before they decided to put into play any new rules with the public having three days to submit feedback.

Several conditions have stayed covered under the new laws including but not limited to; epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer and terminal conditions. New conditions that are covered include; HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALC, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.

The new law stipulates that patients and caregivers must be 21 years of age and older. In order for a minor to be certified, a caregiver must be certified as well. Both must also hold an identification card for legal purposes. Advocates for medical marijuana would also like the caregiver to not be subject to penalties if they have to administer marijuana in the case of an emergency.

The smoking of medical marijuana has remained prohibited despite the public demand for it. The driving force behind the amendment, a man named John Morgan, is working on changing the law from people not being able to smoke their medical marijuana in public.

Besides the vaporizing of the product, it can be sold as edibles, oils, sprays, or tinctures. Many rules apply to the vaping cartridges so that they cannot be wrongfully accessed by children. The flower must be given out in tamper-proof containers.

Advocates are also joyous that the requirement has changed that a patient must be in the care of a certified doctor for ninety days. Now, that is not the case. The certification for doctors has also been reduced from eight hours to two hours, making doctors more apt to attain their certification.

Seasonal residents of Florida are also now welcome to consume the plant. Those who reside a minimum of thirty-one days straight each year and maintain temporary residence are eligible to receive medical marijuana.

The new bill also states that there will not be sales tax on medical marijuana products as it would be unfair given that Florida does not tax other medications.

All of these new laws will ensure that Florida’s marijuana laws become more fair, and make it easier for patients to get the help they need.

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State legislators reached an agreement to make medical marijuana available in Florida, ending an impasse that hindered the issue last month.

Reached Tuesday night after weeks of closed-door negotiations, the deal affirms the will of 71 percent of voters who approved a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana back in November’s election that allowed patients with a host of conditions access to the drug.

Lawmakers plan to vote on the issue by week’s end. It could be one of the only bills to pass during a three-day special session that began Wednesday under a cloud of discord and fears that the Legislature may not accomplish its work on other issues.

New Rules For Florida’s Medical Marijuana Program

“Our constitutional duty is to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, in a statement. “This patient-first legislation will expand access to this medicine while ensuring safety.”

Yet some supporters of the amendment, while pleased that lawmakers reached consensus on legalization, criticized what wasn’t included.

Take smoking. The bills (HB 5A, SB 8A) allow patients to buy and consume cannabis from licensed growers and consume it by “vaping,” as edibles or as oils. But both prohibit smoking the drug.

John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer and possible gubernatorial candidate who bankrolled the Amendment 2 campaign, said if the bill is signed into law, he plans to sue the state.

“Done is better than perfect and this is far from perfect,” he wrote in a post on the website Medium. “I will be suing the state to allow smoke. It was part of my amendment.”

If the legislation passes, lawmakers want the Department of Health to grant 10 new licenses, first to qualified nurseries that tried to get a license previously but were beaten out for the license by another company. They will join the existing seven growers that were licensed under a much more limited cannabis program the Legislature passed in 2014. The legislation would also expand who could use the drug.

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Amongst the $409 million in projects vetoed at the hand of Governor Rick Scott, there were three items that would have provided over three million dollars to Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Florida to help progress with marijuana research.
The state budget called for the money to be used to begin studying medical marijuana and its effects.

Investigative studies on how cannabis works and any potential side effects is limited due to classification as a dangerous drug under federal law. In May, Senator Bill Galvano pushed for lawmakers to change this classification and get answers.

Halting Marijuana Research Due To Lack Of Funding

“I want to know the real effects. What are the negative effects? What are the downsides?” said Sen. Galvano.

Lawmakers responded by proposing two million dollars for the University of Florida and just over one million dollars for Moffitt Cancer Center, but the research funding didn’t make it past the Governor’s desk.

In vetoing money for marijuana research, Governor Rick Scott wrote that the University of Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center both had plenty of money to fund the research on their own.

Marijuana lobbyist Jeff Sharkey says the vetoes are ill-timed.

“Research allows doctors and physicians to understand the impact of medical marijuana on these various conditions. This was a start to move this process forward,” says Sharkey.

In Canada, a government-sanctioned medical marijuana grower has a full-time medical doctor on staff. WCTV reporters traveled to the grow house as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tilray Medical Director Dr. Richard Lucas said, “You can start looking, for example, plants that MLS patients tend to use at a higher majority than other people with different symptoms.”

Legislators will be back in the Capitol for a special session Wednesday, but medical marijuana is not on the agenda. It could be added, but it is unlikely lawmakers will try and revive the research money.

Governor Scott also vetoed $370,000 tied to Moffitt Cancer Center because lawmakers didn’t pass a bill setting up regulations for medical marijuana. Unless lawmakers act, the Department of Health will decide how to regulate medical cannabis.

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There’s a new star in Florida’s medical marijuana industry, and it’s got South Florida connections. This past Wednesday, a company associated with Canadian cannabis operator Aphria and an equity firm Delavaco Group stationed in Fort Lauderdale announced that it has closed on a deal to manage Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, one of seven medical marijuana farmers and distributors in the state.

The deal has been given a green light by the Florida Department of Health.

Under the arrangement, a company operating as Aphria USA will manage the operations of Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, a nursery that does business as CHT Medical. That includes the “cultivation, processing, and dispensing of medical marijuana to patients within the State of Florida” and “the exclusive benefits of the finances from Chestnut’s operation.”

Currently, CHT Medical delivers its medicine to patients. But Aphria plans to significantly increase the size of the company’s operations and establish a network of dispensaries around the state.

“Chestnut is one of a select few licensed producers serving a state with a population over 21 million people,” stated Aphria CEO Vic Neufeld. “It is only the beginning for our plans to be a dominant player in the medical cannabis industry internationally.”

The management agreement allows Delavaco and Aphria to enter into a relatively exclusive market at full force which is on the verge of growing following the November passage of a medical marijuana constitutional amendment. However, it comes at an uncertain time, and amid a flurry of investment and speculation.

The state’s medical marijuana program is about to expand, but as of yet, there are no rules to guide the system, as the Legislature failed to come up with any in its recent session. And it’s unclear whether the state will regulate the number of retail outlets its license-holders can open — a key sticking point that killed a bill this month.

It’s also unclear whether any new licenses will be awarded, although, on Tuesday, an administrative law judge recommended the state issue two new ones, an order the state says it’s still reviewing. Still, Aphria says it remains bullish on the Florida market.

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Florida Marijuana

The Florida Health Department made an order to stop selling a “whole flower” marijuana product that can be smoked in vaporizers, stating that it is illegal. Quincy-based Trulieve started selling “Entourage,” a whole flower product meant to be used in the Volcano vaporizer, last week.

The Health Department sent a letter to Trulieve after the News Service of Florida reported that the flower of the marijuana plant can be easily smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints, which are violations of the current medical marijuana laws.

“Licensed dispensing organizations have a responsibility to ensure their product is not one that can easily be transitioned into a smokable form. Therefore, whole flower products are not permitted,” says Christian Bax, the director of state Office of Compassionate Use.

Florida law does not permit medical marijuana smoking except using vaporizers. Trulieve’s products are in “small, wire mesh bags” in vaporizer cups. The caps can be easily removed.

The company was “surprised by the letter” but is “ immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.” They believed that the product was legal and they had been selling the product for almost a year.

“We feel very strongly that having products available that allow patients to have a choice and to benefit from the entourage effect, also available to physicians to make recommendations to patients, is critical. So if that means we’re pushing the envelope, we’ve had a form of whole-flower vaporizer available from the day we’ve opened. This has always been part of our product line and will continue to be in the future,” says Kim Rivers, the company’s CEO.

Law makers were not able to reach an agreement on a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana regarding patients with debilitating diseases., but they all agreed on one thing: Smokable products should not be permitted.

The sale of smokable marijuana surprised the key legislators in Florida. Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan pledged to sue the state on the smoking marijuana issue, which was approved by over 71 percent of voters in November.

Advocates and patients say that the whole flower is stronger than processed products like oils or vape.

However, the state Department of Health disagrees. “The state’s marijuana operators are allowed to seek permission to sell ‘ground cannabis plant material’ meant to be vaped,” said Bad last Monday, “however, as conveyed to Trulieve in a June 28, 2016 meeting on this matter, dispensing organizations may not dispense easily breached products containing whole flower.”

He also criticized Trulieve for promoting the vaporizer but not selling it. Although it is available, the purchase of delivery products not from a dispensing organization is illegal.

“The department reminds Trulieve that all sales, possession, and use of cannabis outside of the provision” of Florida laws “are a potential criminal act,” says Bax.

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This week house lawmakers in Florida are getting ready to vote on a newly-amended bill to regulate the medical marijuana industry, with it being one of the hottest bills the legislative session will most likely happen on Tuesday.

Lawmakers have drastically overhauled a legislative proposal to regulate the Floridian medical marijuana industry on Friday. Putting the house measure, HB 1397, more in line with the less preventive senate bill.

Among the allegations: Wanting to get rid of the 90 day grace period patients have to wait to be prescribed medical cannabis, also reducing training requirements for prescribing doctors as well as allowing edibles and ‘vaping’.

Bill sponsor rep. Ray Rodrigues, hinted several weeks ago that the house lawmakers are willing to budge on edibles and vaping.

“If we can get proper labeling on vaping and edibles done, that is one of the subjects of our negotiation with the Senate,” he said.

The amended bill increases the different use and forms of medical marijuana as long as it is not “ attractive to children”, which is something opponents were extremely worried about when the previous version of the bill was released.

Under the newer bill, Patients who are dealing with chronic pain can be recommended medical marijuana, only if it is linked with another debilitating condition,

The advocates for medical marijuana have explicitly opposed the house proposal, claiming it is too restrictive and for accommodating to anti-drug groups like Drug Free America, who spent millions of dollars trying to hinder amendment 2 last year.

Under HB 1397, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, Florida’s current seven dispensaries have the first shot at selling medical pot. After 150 thousand patients enroll in the program, then the department would open up its second round of dispensaries.

The less restrictive senate version would grandfather the seven current dispensaries and raise the cap on the number of marijuana dispensaries, expanding the number of dispensaries by five more in October and four more every 75 thousand additional patients in the registry.

Medical marijuana has been one of the most highly debated issues through out this years legislative session, but state lawmakers will have to reach an agreement on how to move forward with the regulation befor this legislative session ends.

Last fall over 71 percent of voters in florida approved a consititutional amendment expanding medical marijuana and now thousands of patients are waiting for their next move so they can find relief for their illnesses.

While some have viewed the house’s amendment as a step in the right direction for the future of medicinal marijuana, it still has not dealt with a lot of concerns.

“It’s certainly an improvement over its previous iterations but is still extraordinarily flawed,” said Florida For Care executive director Ben Pollara. “Vaping and edibles should have been allowed, to begin with, and the 90 day wait eliminated at the outset, but I’m nonetheless happy to see those things happen in the amended bill. But the physician certification language is still fatally flawed and HB 1397 firmly maintains the cartel system that ultimately harms patient access.”

Neither the senate nor the house version allowed smokeable marijuana, but amendments authors say smoking in public is not allowed, which would imply it is allowed already. The lack of clarity could result in big problems for patients and can possibly end up being the focus of lawsuits if not corrected properly.

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Despite the voter-backed medical pot bill which won by over 70 percent back in November. State legislators in Tallahassee are doing everything in their power undermine this giant shift in Florida.

On the other hand medical pot dispensaries are slowly becoming a reality in south Florida. Miami’s first legal storefront dispensary just opened last week, just across the bay near the airport, commissioners will vote on where three new dispensaries could open in Miami Beach.

“ We have been delivering to the Miami area since July, but we’re very excited to have a brick-and-mortar storefront so patients can avoid delivery fees,” said Kim Rivers, spokesperson for Trulieve, the North Florida based firm behind the first dispensary in South Florida.

At this moment, The dispensary is operating under rules that were passed in 2014 and 2015, which allows low-THC products for certain illnesses and full marijuana products for those who are terminally ill. The shop has a variety of marijuana-based medicines ranging from vaporizers to pills and drinks for qualifying patients.

Once Tallahassee gets around to accepting this medical bill, the dispensary will be available to a vast range of patients.

The trulieve location wont be Miami-Dade’s only dispensary for long. After months of de-facto banning of medical pot storefronts, The commissioners at Miami Beach will vote on Wednesday as to where the dispensaries can operate on the beach.

Currently there are three licenses available for South beach, Commissioners have to decide how the companies will be zoned and operated, considering locations in south beach, Mid-beach and north-beach.

Choosing the locations will definitely be the main issue at hand, because medical marijuana has been treated and looked at as much less dangerous than other popular drugs. Critics have actually been making fun of the commission for repeatedly delaying the votes, accusing commissioner Ricky Arriola for rifling up voters with “ not in my backyard” comments about the use of marijuana.

Once South beach does get everything together, there will extremely difficult competition for the available licenses. Making the prospect of medicinal marijuana in southern Florida a lot more tangible in the near future.

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Matt Gaetz is a 34-year-old attorney who, while in the Florida legislature, pushed for accelerated executions and blocked any revision of the stand-your-ground law following Trayvon Martin’s shooting death. He now represents most of the Florida Panhandle in Congress. Most of us would call those solid conservative bona fides “textbook reactionary,” but back at home in Gaetz’s First Congressional District, they’re local mores. His district is so solidly Republican, it’s an island of dark red floating in a less-red sea.

The district is the most conservative in Florida, with a plus-22 conservative rating from the Cook Partisan Voting Index; which may be off by double-digits. In November’s election, Gaetz defeated the Democratic challenger by nearly 40% points. So far in Congress, Gaetz has made waves for introducing a bill that would permanently abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. And in February, during the buildup leading to the failure to repeal or replace Obamacare, Gaetz ended a town-hall meeting by leading a chant to “Make America Great Again!”

Gaetz, then, is the perfect person to carry what could be the single most important marijuana-related reform bill in a session of Congress full of cannabis-related legislation.
On April 6, Gaetz and fellow Florida Rep. Darren Soto, (D-Orlando) introduced a bill that, if passed, would force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III. Because, you see, even if Floridians want to shoot people and then put shooters on an accelerated death-row conveyor belt, they want to use medical marijuana while doing it. On the same day Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz were elected, Florida voters also overwhelmingly voted in favor of expanded medical cannabis access.

Gaetz stated, “This drug should not be in the same category as heroin and LSD, and we do not need to continue with a policy that turns thousands of young people into felons every year. Nor do we need to punish the millions of people who are sick and seeking medical help from pain, from muscle wasting, from chemotherapy-induced nausea.” Rescheduling is a slightly different tactic than outright legalization. Some marijuana hardliners want “descheduling,” rendering cannabis no more controlled than a tomato (as long as it’s not an invasive species of tomato), but Gaetz’s tactic is both more effective and more realistic. It also goes further than some prior efforts, led by Democrats.

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The windows will soon open on the Tumbleweed Express Drive-Thru, the nation’s first legal drive-thru marijuana dispensary. Located in a converted car wash space in Parachute, Colorado, the dispensary will sell weed from 4 p.m. to midnight on the weekends, giving buyers late-night access. Naturally, the shop is planning to open on April 20, better known as 4/20.

CEO Mark Smith stated, “I didn’t set out thinking this would be national news. I didn’t have some big epiphany. I just saw a need for our customers.” Smith is the latest in a line of cannabis entrepreneurs, including celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Snoop Dogg, taking advantage of increasing mainstream interest in weed consumption.

The drive-thru counter is subject to the same strict regulations as all other recreational marijuana dealers. No one under the age of 21 is allowed on the premises; in this case, that includes the back seats of cars. And the substance is not allowed to be visible from outside the dispensary. Security measures must also be in place. However, for the town of Parachute, population 1,100, marijuana sales are an important component of the local economy, accounting for nearly 30% of the 2016 sales tax revenue. Cannabis sales have also been contentious, with a ban in place prior to 2015. With the weed market booming across the state, however, Parachute appears to be joining the bandwagon.

Parachute Town Manager Stuart McArthur said in February, “We think the drive-through is a very creative and innovative idea.” The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division added that it was not aware of this business model “ever coming up before,” giving the shop its claim to fame. Tumbleweed Express Drive-Thru’s big opening day is set to coincide with the unofficial national holiday celebrating cannabis culture.

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Florida Marijuana

A proposal that would award $2.5 million for UF to study medical marijuana recently moved forward in the Florida House of Representatives. The proposal states that money from the General Revenue Fund will be used to fund UF’s study on the safety and efficiency of medical cannabis. The bill, which passed through the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, moved into the Appropriations Committee on Friday.

If the bill is passed in the committee, it will go to a full House vote for final approval. If it passes through the House, the proposal states the one time fund will be finalized in July. House member Dane Eagle, a republican who represents District 77, sponsored the proposal, which was first submitted February 7. Janine Sikes, spokesperson for UF, wrote in an email that the money would fund UF’s proposed Cannabis and Safety Outcomes Surveillance System, a program which would monitor the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis on 25,000 enrolled patients throughout the state.

Florida’s Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment that allows stronger cannabis to be used for a broader list of conditions, took effect in January. Of the six medical cannabis dispensaries licensed in Florida, two are in Alachua County, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use. Sikes said the UF program would monitor treatments that haven’t been approved by the FDA. UF would create a secure Data Warehouse to track patient data as part of the program.

She said the $2.5 million would be for costs such as faculty salaries and data processing. She stated, “Evidence is lacking to evaluate risk/benefit of medical marijuana. It is pivotal that the state establishes a system to monitor emerging safety concerns, especially for use in children.” She said the proposal is related to the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which requires physicians to submit a quarterly patient treatment plan to the UF’s College of Pharmacy for research on the safety and effectiveness of low-THC cannabis on patients. The details of the proposal state that it would offer funding to implement research provisions in the 2014 act.

A UF nursing senior, Alicia Ciliezar, said she supports the use and research of medical cannabis. The substance helps improve pain levels for individuals with issues such as neurologic conditions and digestive disorders. She said, “I’m very eager to see the aims of the study, the objectives and the outcomes. I’m sure it will be fascinating and shape our perception on the substance.”

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