The 2015 legislative session has adjourned, and — unfortunately — legislators failed to protect sick and suffering Floridians from arrest and prosecution before they left Tallahassee. United for Care immediately announced that it would collect the necessary signatures to put the issue before voters in November 2016. In November 2014, a similar measure received 58% of the vote, just shy of the 60% needed for voters to enact a constitutional amendment
Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes sponsored the legislative effort, SB 528. The Florida Medical Marijuana Act would have protected seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for using marijuana under a doctor’s recommendation. It also would have created a system of registered medical marijuana providers to ensure that patients have safe and reliable access to the medicine they need.
In addition to considering comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, the legislature was presented with legislation that would have taxed and regulated marijuana like Colorado does, a public policy proposal that St. Pete’s Polls found 58.8% of Floridians support. Unfortunately, the legislation, introduced by Rep. Randolph Bracy, was not voted on, but all Floridians should email their lawmakers in support of sensible marijuana policies. Finally, if you are a victim of marijuana prohibition and would like to help reform the current laws, please let us know.
Shortly before adjourning its 2014 legislative session, Florida lawmakers passed a bill that attempts to exempt a limited group of very sick people from criminal laws for using marijuana that is low in THC and high in CBD if certain requirements are met. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill on June 16, 2014. Unfortunately, the Department of Health has run into many issues implementing the law, which alsoleaves many patients behind and may not help even those it’s meant to. A summary of the new law is available here.
An ACLU suit to enjoin implementation of a 2011 law, signed by Gov. Scott, requiring new applicants for temporary welfare assistance funded by TANF to undergo, and pay for out of pocket, mandatory and suspicionless drug tests was declared unconstitutional in October 2011. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the more conservative federal appeals courts, upheld the decision. In April 2014, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear Gov. Scott’s appeal, letting the appeal court decision stand.
However, despite failing at every level, Gov. Rick Scott continues his quest to drug test welfare recipients. The governor has filed a brief in appellate court seeking to re-argue the state’s right to drug test all individuals seeking welfare benefits. Once again, the 11th Circuit rejected Gov. Scott’s argument and declared the practice unconstitutional. The governor’s office stated that it would review the ruling, but the ACLU attorney referred to this judgment as “the end of the line for the governor’s crusade.”
Despite the fact that a medical necessity defense has been established by Florida case law, patients remain at risk of being arrested and jailed because legislators have yet to enact a medical marijuana law. To review a 1991 case that outlines Florida’s medical necessity defense, click here.
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Florida, you can contact us by email at [email protected].