Patients and advocates in Florida are fed up with restrictions to access for medical cannabis. Florida health officials enacted new emergency rules on August 29, imposing explicit limits on the amount of medical cannabis that patients may legally obtain and consume.
Advocates like NORML are concerned, saying that the emergency rules were established behind closed doors—absent of any public input. Further, the rules arrived almost six years after voters initially approved Florida’s constitutional amendment establishing a medical cannabis system.
On September 8, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried blasted the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and its Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), calling on them to roll back “extreme” dosage restrictions enacted through an emergency rule, a process that afforded less than three days advance notice to doctors and patients and provided no public comment opportunity.
Florida Department of Health’s OMMU website, Emergency Rule 64ER22-8 stipulates that a qualified physician may not issue a certification for more than three 70-day supply limits of cannabis or more than six 35-day supply limits of cannabis in smoking form. Also, a 35-day supply limit for cannabis in smoking form shall not exceed 2.5 ounces. Many more restrictions were added to the list.
The rules do allow physicians, however, to request exceptions to the limits for certain patients.
Commissioner Fried announced this letter at a press conference held September 8 at the Florida Capitol where she was joined by medical cannabis patients and advocates, including Dr. Barry Gordon with the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic and Jodi James with the Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLCAN) to discuss why the emergency rules must be tossed out and how it can do harm to medical cannabis patients, such as ones who require higher doses of THC.
“This rule change is unnecessary, its implementation poorly noticed, and its impacts extremely harmful with hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida no longer able to access their medicine in the quantities they need for efficient treatment as determined by their doctors. This reflects a lack of understanding of medical cannabis by DOH and OMMU at best and is an act of cruelty at worst,” said Commissioner Fried. “We are sending a strong message to the DeSantis Administration to put patients first, protect their access to legal and lifesaving medicine, and roll back these restrictions. I will never stop fighting for our medical cannabis patients and full legalization.”
Watch the video of the press conference here.
Commissioner Fried sent a public letter to Florida’s Surgeon General, who oversees DOH’s OMMU, and the letter may be downloaded here.
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano described the newly imposed limits as a “solution in search of a problem.” He said: “These arbitrary and unnecessary limits were established without input from either the patient community or from those physicians who specialize in providing oversight to medical cannabis patients. They will likely result in creating unnecessary confusion and they will place an undue burden upon patients and their doctors. Decisions regarding cannabis care ought to be between patients and their physicians; they should not be made by bureaucrats.”
Fried is an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told a group of reporters on August 23 that medical cannabis license holders in the state need to pay more for their license application and renewal fees. State officials “should charge these people more,” DeSantis said.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.