In November of 2016, Florida residents voted to legalize medical marijuana to alleviate symptoms of certain illnesses. The new regulations went into effect in January of 2016, but the requirement for dispensaries to be approved by the state is leaving many aspiring vendors in the lurch.
Currently, there are less than a dozen government-approved dispensaries throughout the entire state, and obtaining approval is filled with obstacles. The approval process involves a great deal of bureaucratic red tape which can be very expensive and time-consuming for the average marijuana start-up. Meanwhile, Florida vendors face issues of preferential treat given by state regulators towards nurseries that have been in business for over 30-years or longer.
Perhaps even more strange is the fact that the state-sanctioned Medical Marijuana Cultivation Application is still being revised and finalized, even after over a year of the new law being put into place. The current application is several years old and only addresses the selling of low-THC and high-cbd products.
Florida faces threat of a medical marijuana monopoly
The Floridian marijuana debacle is eerily similar to the recent problems surrounding the Indiana vaping laws. In 2015, Indiana lawmakers passed a new legislation requiring all vape vendors and manufacturers to apply for a state-sanctioned license. The fine print of the application stated that the applicant must hire the services of a highly-specialized security firm with an enormously long list of very specific credentials. However, only one company in the entire state met these state-ordered guidelines - Mulhaupt’s of Lafayette.
As the application deadline quickly approached, over 300 small business owners in Indiana were unable to obtain their licenses. Many claimed that Mulhaupt’s representatives were not even return their phone calls. Others alleged the security company was charging outlandishly high fees for their services. The vaping monopoly in Indiana eventually went to court and is still be fought today.
Florida is not California
Starting a new medical marijuana dispensary in Florida is not an easy venture. Unlike California with its newly bustling cannabis economy, recreational marijuana is not legal in The Sunshine State. The restrictions that Florida forces upon potential vendors are far more severe than those in California. Yet Florida has the largest percentage of aging Americans in the United States, many of which could greatly benefit from legalized medical marijuana.
- Patients are not allowed to grow their own plants. If a patient is caught growing their own medicine then they are charged with a felony and thrown in jail.
- By extension, non-licensed small businesses cannot possess in-house marijuana plants of any kind or in any amount, no matter how small.
- It is still considered a crime to be caught carrying a very small amount of weed without proper documentation. 20 grams seems to be the maximum threshold at the moment for misdemeanors. Anything above is a felony.
- Even with a doctor’s approval, patients are only allowed to purchase low-THC cannabis.
- Exceptions are made for terminally ill patients, but even they are required first to obtain a special government-approved license which must be on their person at all times of marijuana use.
- Any patient, terminally ill or otherwise, must register with the Florida Department of Health’s Compassionate Use Registry and obtain a medical cannabis ID card. Similar laws are in place in nearly all states with legal marijuana, including California.
- It is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana, even with a government-issued permit.
- Patients are prohibited from purchasing marijuana flowers. They can currently only purchase MCT oil and terpenes to build their aspiring business.
As Florida haggles over its regulations regarding the certification of medical marijuana dispensaries, millions of patients may be missing a wonderful, lifesaving treatment that can vastly improve their quality of life. Even the Florida medical community is cautious of recommending marijuana to their patients, fearing the possible legal ramifications of a government bureaucracy that is still extremely confusing, complex, and complicated.