Limited Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill in Florida Signed By Governor Scott

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

On Monday, June 16, Rick Scott signed into law a bill that would offer a very limited legalization of medical marijuana.  Called the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, the law legalizes the use of a very low THC strain of a type of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web for use of a handful of serious illnesses, namely epilepsy, cancer and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  This law is not the same as a constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November that would allow for greater legalization of medical marijuana in Florida.

This bill allows only one strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web, one with extremely low amounts of the compound in marijuana that makes people high.  It is not meant to be smoked, but rather is processed into an oil which is taken under the tongue.  The strain was named after a Colorado girl who had relief from her epilepsy symptoms after taking the drug.  Only a few growers will be able to supply the marijuana.

This specific strain of medical marijuana has been a game changer when it comes to legislation for the drug.  States that have always been staunchly anti-legalization are now passing laws allowing this strain only and for very limited illnesses.  Other states are allowing legalization of Charlotte’s Web for children where only adults were allowed to use medical marijuana before, mainly because of the amount of relief it offers to children who have severe epilepsy and the small amount of risk that this strain of marijuana could be used for non-medical purposes.  The legalization of Charlotte’s Web in Florida appears to be a step towards greater legalization of low-THC marijuana for some conditions in other states as well.  Florida is the 22nd state in the country and the first in the Southeast to legalize some form of marijuana.

This law is not the same as the one that is on the ballot for voters to decide on in November.  Amendment 2 is also a law allowing for the legalization of medical marijuana, but if the amendment passes, the use of medical marijuana would be allowed on a much larger scale.  Amendment 2 would allow the use and possession of marijuana for the use of medically debilitating diseases if it is recommended by a licensed physician.  This amendment does not regulate which strains would be allowed like the law that was signed by Scott and it does not define what would be considered a medically necessary reason for taking the drug, where the law signed this month only allows its use for three diseases.  Amendment 2 appears to have strong support among Florida voters at this time, but it is anticipated there will be heavy campaigning by groups on both side of this issue in the coming months.