As a Health Care Professional in Florida, You Need to Stay In the Know on Medical Marijuana

Tuesday, August 12, 2014
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

During the 2014 session, the Florida legislature passed Senate Bill 1030 or the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. The bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott on June 16, 2014. The law makes it legal for qualified Florida patients to take low-THC cannabis in liquid form. The specific medical marijuana is approved to treat certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, muscle spasms and cancer. Medical marijuana treatment may be available in Florida as soon as January 2015.

The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 is just the first step for Florida. A broader medical marijuana law, Amendment 2, will appear on Florida’s November ballot. If passed, Amendment 2 will legalize the growing, purchasing, possession and use of marijuana to treat medical conditions.

With the legalization of medical marijuana, state health officials are now left to sort out many details before doctors and dispensaries can legally sell pot.

Florida Department of Health Administrative Draft Rules on Medical Marijuana.

The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 directs the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to establish an Office of Compassionate Use (OCU) to implement and manage the various aspects of the program.  So far the OCU has met for two rule development workshops. These meetings outline how the DOH intends to implement the new medical marijuana law.

Here is a summary the DOH draft rule:

-    Each "applicant" must be an entity with at least 25% ownership by a nursery on the approved list.
-    Only five dispensing organizations will be approved (limited by Statute) in different geographic regions.
-    The lottery system remains in place. Applicants submit their proposals to the DOH. The DOH will review and approve the applications. If there is more than one application for each region, the DOH will hold a lottery to determine who gets the license.
-    The applicants must show proposed buildings and locations for its facilities rather than demonstrate that the facilities are owned.
-    In the record keeping section, the draft eliminates the requirement to show where the plants originated.
 -    Defines organic and requires that cultivation and processing of medical marijuana be organic.
-    Defines "edible food products" and asserts jurisdiction over them. Requires that edible food products be tested in state-approved laboratories.
-    Defines a "permanent resident" and restricts patients to only permanent residents.
-    Requires records be kept of the "price of products."
-    Allows dispensing organizations to create transportation plans to allow deliveries of up to 30 days of supplies to registered patients.
-    Allows a dispensing organization to "alter, expand, or consolidate their infrastructure, operations or staffing in order to better serve patients. A reasonable reading of this section would allow dispensing organizations to have multiple distribution sites.
-    Each dispensing organization must employ a medical doctor. The doctor must be independent and have no ownership stake. The doctor will establish standards and protocols.
-    The dispensing organization must grow the plants indoors and prevent odor emissions and public views.
-    Applications must be submitted within 15 days of the date the rule is effective. If chosen, the dispensing organization has 10 days to pay a $150,000 fee and post a $5 million bond. The organization must begin cultivation within 75 days or begin dispensing products within 150 days.
-    Applicants must provide written documentation of expertise – experience, training and ability necessary to cultivate and process medical marijuana.
-    Facilities must be 1,000 feet from schools, churches and public parks.

To read the full text of the draft rule from the August 1, 2014, OCU rule development workshop, click here.

Protecting Health Care Professionals.

Doctors may face the most difficult legal quandary. Under federal law, doctors cannot prescribe marijuana products. Medical professionals are especially vulnerable because federal law gives them the authority to prescribe other narcotics, and that authority could be withdrawn if a doctor violates federal marijuana laws.

It is important to keep in mind that Florida authorities and professional boards may closely monitor the actions of physicians and pharmacists who certify and dispense medical marijuana. Protect yourself and your license by keeping up to date with rules and regulations regarding dispensing pot. Expect to be under close watch, especially as this new area of medicine evolves.


As a physician, do you plan on getting into the medical marijuana business? What are the benefits of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014? After reviewing the draft rule, do you see any potential pitfalls? What are your biggest concerns as a health care professional or provider in regard to legalized medical marijuana? Pleas leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.  

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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The Health Law Firm" is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. - The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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