On January 27, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court approved proposed ballot language for a proposed amendment to the Florida constitution that would provide for the production, possession and use of medical marijuana. The Florida Supreme Court resolved a dispute over the proposed ballot language. The dispute primarily focused on whether the definition of “debilitating medical condition” was misleading and would effectively allow a physician to prescribe marijuana to virtually anyone with minor aches and pains. The Florida Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, determined that the ballot language, including the definition of “debilitating medical condition,” will fairly inform voters of the chief purpose of the amendment (i.e., to allow for the production, possession and use of medical marijuana) and will not mislead voters, who will be able to cast an intelligent and informed vote as to whether they want a provision in the state constitution authorizing the medical use of marijuana, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, under Florida law.
The Florida Supreme Court determined that it is reasonable to construe the amendment as being limited to debilitating medical conditions that require the professional opinion of a physician to diagnose, and that as to each debilitating condition, the benefits of prescribing marijuana as a treatment must outweigh the health risks. The Court reasoned as follows:
“The common definition of “debilitating,” based on these authorities, is therefore similar under both medical and lay dictionaries. While the opponents suggest that the proposed amendment would authorize the “unfettered” use of marijuana to treat more conditions than are commonly thought of as “debilitating,” the popular and common-sense meaning of “debilitating” – though not requiring the condition to be as “serious and devastating” as the opponents state – still requires that the medical condition cause impaired strength, weakness, or enfeeblement. In other words, a physician must first make a professional determination that the patient‘s medical condition causes impaired strength, weakness, or enfeeblement in order to consider issuing a physician certification consistent with the proposed amendment, which limits the amendment‘s scope.”
Now that the Florida Supreme Court has determined that the ballot language is permissible, Florida voters will decide whether to pass the amendment in November 2014. Under Florida law, 60% of the voters must approve of the amendment. If the amendment is approved, then the Florida Department of Health (“the Department”) will be required to implement regulations for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana in the state of Florida.
Under the proposed amendment, the Department will have six (6) months to create the regulations, namely, procedures for the issuance of qualifying patient identification cards and personal caregiver identification cards, procedures for the registration of “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers” (defined in the amendment) that include procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension, and revocation of registration, and standards to ensure security, record keeping, testing, labeling, inspection, and safety, and regulations that define the permissible amounts of marijuana for use by qualifying patients. No later than nine months (9) after the effective date of the amendment, the Department will then begin registering “Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers,” and issuing identification cards to qualifying patients and personal caregivers.
Notably, if the Department delays the implementation process, then the proposed amendment provides for a civil action against the Department to compel it to comply with its duties to implement the regulations.
Joel Ewusiak, a Safety Harbor lawyer, has been closely monitoring – and will continue to closely monitor – the legalities of medical marijuana production, possession and use in the state of Florida. If Florida voters pass the proposed constitutional amendment for medical marijuana in November 2014, Joel will be ready, willing and equipped to provide legal advice and assistance to individuals, small businesses, and corporations wishing to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in the state of Florida and/or who need legal representation in medical marijuana disputes with Florida municipalities, the Florida Department of Health and Florida state agencies. For more information concerning Florida’s proposed medical marijuana laws, please contact Joel Ewusiak at firstname.lastname@example.org.