Medicinal marijuana laws in Florida face legal hurdles

Medical Marijuana Sees Progress In Florida, Connecticut, New Hampshire

While Florida has yet to settle on laws allowing even extremely low-level medical marijuana to be dispensed to seizure patients, Connecticut and New Hampshire are already a part of the 23 states that have legalized the use of medical cannabis within their borders. While Connecticut continues to deal with a rapidly growing list of eligible patients, New Hampshire is still working out the details of starting their first medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

Medical marijuana in Florida, New Hampshire and Connecticut
Medical marijuana in Florida continues to slowly advance, while Connecticut and New Hampshire see improvements of their own. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

While still doing more than a lot of other states, Florida struggles to implement medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, as it continues to run into political obstacles. As the Sun Sentinel reports, the five dispensing organizations selected by a panel last year have until February 7 to submit requests for authorization of cultivating medical marijuana for the state of Florida. Unlike many other states that have already legalized medical marijuana, the laws in Florida would only allow for marijuana with very low levels of THC, the chemical that causes euphoria when marijuana is consumed in its natural state.

The use of medicinal cannabis in the state of Florida is restricted to patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or have been diagnosed with cancer. Even if the authorization is given to the five dispensaries, the licenses are already scheduled to be challenged at least thirteen times in front of five different judges between March and July. It is not expected, however, that anyone will try to push back the February 7 date or further delay the availability of the drug to Florida residents who are eligible. While the market in Florida is very narrow with these strict regulations regarding which patients are eligible, those involved hope that a broader law will be introduced to the ballot and passed come November.

Applications from dispensaries are being submitted in Connecticut as well. Having enacted their official Medical Marijuana Program in June of 2012, Connecticut is still slowly expanding the program. The need for three new dispensaries in the states is a clear sign. Sixteen dispensary applicants were turned down, according to Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection. As KTNH News noted, there are currently more than 8200 medical marijuana patients registered under the program. Expected to be ready for business by early summer, the two of the dispensaries will be located in Milford, Connecticut, while the other will be located in Waterbury.

Along with the three new dispensaries, Connecticut has also added patients suffering from sickle cell disease, failed back syndrome, psoriatic arthritis, and severe psoriasis. Bills are also being introduced in their state legislature that would allow access to medical THC for minors with parental consent.

A few steps behind their fellow New England friends from Connecticut, the state of New Hampshire just recently approved the first three locations for medicinal marijuana in the state. Overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, New Hampshire Public Radio reports that the state of New Hampshire has already mailed out medical marijuana identification cards to 176 residents of the Granite State who will be eligible once the product is made available. It is expected that the patients will be able to access the drug through the dispensaries by this Spring.

This all comes as the laws regarding medical marijuana continue to loosen at the federal level. Marijuana laws are likely to come up all throughout the 2016 presidential elections, with many candidates — such as Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul — fully in favor of ending marijuana prohibition at the federal level. Potential libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has made medical cannabis a top priority. Recent studies show that 61 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana.

[Image credit Alex Barak/Getty Images]