Clearing the Mist: A Brief Glance into the Breadth of Florida’s Medical Marijuana Amendment

By: Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.

Q: What type of medical conditions can be treated by medical marijuana in Florida?

A: On November 8, 2016, more than 71 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2, Florida’s medical marijuana amendment. While it is clear that a majority of Florida voters support, at least in a limited capacity, the legalization of medical marijuana, what remains unclear, among many other issues, is how broadly the amendment will apply, and what type of medical conditions it will cover? The answers to these questions, and others, will most likely not be revealed for many months and years as the amendment is implemented; however, we can look to the text of the amendment itself, as well as to other states that have implemented similar laws, to get a glimpse of the breadth of its application.

Florida’s medical marijuana amendment allows an individual who is diagnosed with certain enumerated debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, or (perhaps most importantly) “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class”, to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, if a physician believes the medical use of marijuana for such condition would outweigh the potential health risk for the patient. The inclusion of “other debilitating medication conditions” broadens the scope and applicability of the amendment, and provides Florida’s doctors with substantial discretion to determine those medical conditions that apply, and those that do not.

Other states, such as Illinois and Alaska, have defined debilitating medical conditions to include conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, severe fibromyalgia, and Tourette’s syndrome, and have extended the term’s application to certain symptoms, such as chronic pain or severe nausea.  While Florida’s Department of Health will likely enumerate rules and guidelines regarding the determination of “debilitating medical condition”, the Department is limited in its rule making authority by the discretion the amendment affords to physicians to determine when the use of medical marijuana outweighs any potential health risks.  Consequently, although the application of the amendment will become clearer in the coming months, its breadth, while limited, is currently unknown, and Florida’s physicians will play a significant role in determining how the amendment will apply and who can partake in medical marijuana.

Proactive Planning for Senior Medicaid Programs Makes the Process Easier and Saves Money

By: Kevin R. Albaum, Esq.
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.

Medicaid programs are often available to senior citizens in Florida to help pay for home care, assisted living, and nursing home expenses.  However, there are complex rules regarding eligibility to qualify for these Medicaid programs.  Knowing the eligibility rules of these programs prior to needing to apply is helpful, not only for the individual or couple, but also for the attorney that often assists with legal planning to preserve assets for a spouse or family.  Regardless of the urgency for the need for senior care, taking the time to confer with an elder law attorney helps seniors and their families understand what Medicaid programs are available, who qualifies for them and why an individual may qualify for some programs and not others.

Q. When is it recommended to meet with an elder law attorney to discuss Medicaid issues and planning?

While personal situations differ, below are two examples of common situations when a person may consider contacting an elder law attorney to discuss Medicaid needs.

Example Client #1:  My husband and I are both in our sixties and we know we may need Medicaid in the future.  Could we meet to learn more about the available Medicaid programs that may help us pay for any future assisted living or nursing home care costs?  In this situation, I generally meet with individuals to discuss, assess, and plan their current situation and their future health care and financial needs.  We also look to identify potential future roadblocks to obtaining Medicaid benefits and we further explain the programs that potentially might be available based on the current and future situation.   Finally, we discuss and analyze the “what ifs” such as the event of an unforeseen crisis and the need to become eligible for appropriate benefits as quickly as possible.

Example Client #2My 90-year-old dad is out of money and he has dementia.  He is in a nursing home and he needs financial assistance as soon as possible.  Can you help me get Medicaid benefits for Dad?  When I receive calls like this example, not only are the family and lawyer dealing with the same complex legal subject matter as the client in Example 1, but we also are dealing with a loved one who is either already in or is in the process of moving to a nursing home.  Additionally, due to the high cost of care and lack of available funds to pay for care, we now have a built-in deadline to complete any necessary legal planning and to resolve any unexpected disqualifying issues.  In this type of “crisis” scenario, becoming eligible for benefits is still possible; however, the ability to proactively plan and the options for planning are often more limited than they might have been a few years prior to the crisis.

Proactively planning, not only often saves clients time but also can reduce the future costs of senior care and legal expenses.

Kevin Albaum is an attorney in the Elder Law Practice at Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. Questions can be submitted online to thelaw@cclmlaw.com.