SB 8-A: More Legislation on Medical Marijuana in Florida

Following trend, Florida legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2014 when the Governor signed Senate Bill 1030 into law, now codified as 381.986, F.S. From the outset, it has been interesting to watch the legalization process of medical marijuana in the state of Florida. Voters approved The Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative, also known as Amendment 2, in the 2016 general election. More than 71 percent of Florida voters approved the amendment, the largest percentage of support a medical marijuana initiative has received by popular vote.

Since then, the legislature has been working hard to pass new legislation relating to Amendment 2. On June 23, 2017, Governor Rick Scott and the legislature passed SB 8-A in a special session. This action was taken only after the legislature failed to implement a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug in the regular session. The law builds on the existing compassionate use of low-THC and medical cannabis program with additional provisions to implement the Constitutional Amendment passed by Florida voters in the 2016 General Election,,now codified as Art. X, S. 29.

SB 8-A specifically makes the sale of medical marijuana exempt from sales tax. This is a big deal for patients as it decreases the amount they pay for the drug. This is also an important change in the medical marijuana world as a whole, This exemption means in the Florida legislatures eyes, medical marijuana should be treated the same as other prescription medicines, at least for tax purposes, which is a big step.

SB 8-A also allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles, and vape pens with a doctor’s approval, but bans smoking. Many have taken issue with the fact that the law bans smoking, claiming that the people voted for smoking when they voted for Amendment 2 in the 2016 election, and now the legislature has taken that away. The amendment allowed the Legislature to address smoking, but only by prohibiting it in public places. Thus, many have taken the position that any additional regulation violates the intent of the Constitutional amendment. The law has excluded smoking as it has defined “medical use” to exclude “possession, use or administration of marijuana in a form for smoking.” The People United for Medical Marijuana brought suit against The Florida Department of Health in Leon County, claiming the provision redefined and narrowed the definition of marijuana in direct conflict with the Florida State Constitution.

The law also implements several other provisions relating to medical marijuana that can be found here. Among the other provisions of the law is eliminating the 90 day waiting period before a physician can prescribe medical marijuana to a patient. The law also outlines the requirements to qualify as a caregiver for someone who uses medical marijuana.

Additionally, the law also sets out a new plan to license 10 new companies as growers, also known as Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (“MMTCs”), which would bring the statewide total to 17. The Department of Health has also received push back in the form of several lawsuits taking issue with the manner in which the Department has gone about choosing what nurseries were and were not granted licenses to cultivate and sell medical marijuana.

The legislation is not perfect, but it does achieve the job of getting patients medical marijuana, though possibly not in the preferred form. Additionally, the law has set in place a plan to expand the business side of medical marijuana. Overall, SB 8-A has brought many positives to the table for those medically in need of the drug, but it is also understandable why many take issue with the legislature excluding smoking from the approved uses. It will be interesting to watch what happens with the lawsuits challenging the law.

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In his law practice Mr. Donnini's primary practice is multi-state sales and use tax as well as state corporate income tax controversy. Mr. Donnini also practices in the areas of federal tax controversy, federal estate planning, Florida probate, and all other state taxes including communication service tax, cigarette & tobacco tax, motor fuel tax, and Native American taxation. Mr. Donnini obtained his LL.M. in Taxation at NYU. Mr. Donnini is licensed to practice law in Florida. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact him via email [email protected] or phone at 954-639-4496.