This past week, both the Florida Senate and House passed a new medical cannabis statute (SB 182: Medical Use of Marijuana). The full bill can be read here.
The primary goal for this bill is to allow for flowers/buds sold by state authorized dispensaries, that patients can smoke; however, this also means cannabis should be available for dry vaping and juicing. There has been no change in the law for home-grow, although that may change soon. Patients will be allowed to purchase 2.5 ounces every 35 days, and a physician can give six consecutive orders with a single certification. The statute also allows for a patient or caregiver to be in possession of up to four ounces at a time.
Under the new law, children will not be allowed to smoke cannabis unless they have a terminal illness and two physicians authorize the smokable form, one of whom must be to be a pediatrician. Though I am a board-certified pediatrician who specializes in pediatric cannabis therapies, it is unlikely I would authorize smoking for any child. There are many other more appropriate routes for qualified pediatric patients.
Overall this is wonderful news. I support a patient’s right to choose and this allows patients broader access to treatments that may help their condition. I want to be clear, though, that in my opinion it is not a good idea for people to SMOKE anything… be it cannabis, tobacco, or banana leaves! While no research has found that smoking cannabis leads to lung cancer, inhaling something hot enough can cause thermal injury to the airway, and smoke is more of an irritant compared to inhaling vapor.
Though rare, it is possible a person can only get benefit from smoking cannabis. One example being Cathy Jordan, who was the patient that initiated the lawsuit against the State of Florida regarding the smoking ban. Last year I met and spent some time getting to know Cathy. I am happy that she will now be able to use a more effective form of cannabis treatment.
The Department of Health has until July 1, 2019, to put rules into place so patients can begin obtaining flower. It is unclear whether these new rules will necessitate another appointment for certified patients to gain access to the smokable form of cannabis. Additionally, consent forms and future orders may need to be modified depending on whether the rules use the term “smokable” cannabis versus “smoking” cannabis. My hope is they will maintain the term “smokable,” since dry vaping and juicing can be done with a smokable form.
I want to thank the Florida Legislation, and Governor DeSantis, for allowing this to happen.