Litigation Law

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.

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