Under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, Florida patients suffering from cancer or a physical medical condition that produces chronic symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscles spasms can qualify for the use of low-THC cannabis.
To read the full legislative language of the Florida compassionate-use act, click here.
Florida has been preparing physicians to qualify patients for the use of medical marijuana for nearly a year. So far, only 42 doctors have completed the process for the medical marijuana program, which consists of passing an eight-hour continuing education course and a subsequent examination.
However, after all other alternative treatment options have proven to be unsuccessful, even registered physicians will not be prescribing the drug low in the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high in cannabidiol (CBD) to patients qualified for its use. This is because prescribing marijuana in any form, even low-THC cannabis, is against federal law. Therefore, the way Florida law is written, qualified physicians may “recommend” or write a “recommendation” for medical marijuana for a patient.
Prescribing Medical Marijuana is a Violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.
In order to prescribe controlled substances, physicians must first register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA categorizes each controlled substance by potency, potential for abuse and accepted safety or medical use with schedules utilizing roman numerals.
Medical marijuana (even low-THC cannabis) is categorized as a Schedule I drug, meaning it currently has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, it has no accepted safety for use under medical supervision and it possesses a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are illegal to prescribe, even by physicians registered with the DEA.
For more information on prescribing controlled substances from the American Nurses Association, click here.
How Will Qualified Patients Receive Medical Marijuana for Treatment?
While physicians are barred from prescribing low-THC cannabis, despite the compassionate-use act that became effective on January 1, 2015, physicians registered in the program will instead be providing qualified patients with”physician certifications.” A physician certification for a qualifying patient is basically a written document signed by a physician.
The document must profess the physician has examined the patient and currently maintains a treatment plan for the patient, and in the physician’s professional opinion such patient suffers from a “debilitating medical condition,” as specified by Florida law. Furthermore, the physician must assert that all other alternative treatment options have been unsuccessful in relieving symptoms associated with the patient’s illness.
Other conditions apply for qualifying patients and for physician ordering of medical marijuana. For more information on additional requirements, click here to refer to Section 381.986, Florida Statutes.
Will Physicians Face Federal Prosecution for Providing Qualified Patients with Medical Marijuana?
In a press release issued by the Department of Justice in October of 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that possess laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana. Attorney General Holder emphasized that the focus of federal resources should not be on the individuals acting in compliance with state laws. However, prosecution will continue for those individuals claiming to comply with state laws but acting against the terms, conditions and purposes of those laws.
To read the full press release by the Department of Justice dated October 19, 2009, click here.
In a memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, dated October 19, 2009 and referenced by Attorney General Holder, the Deputy Attorney General states in pertinent part:
“The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime…The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority…As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
To read the full memorandum for more information on what constitutes “clear and unambiguous compliance,” click here.
To read a more recent memorandum of Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, stressing the importance of strong regulatory and enforcement systems in states where medical marijuana is legal, click here.
Finally, to read the DEA’s Position Paper on Marijuana, click here.
Are you signing up as a physician authorized to order medical marijuana for qualified patients in the state of Florida? If no, is it because you are concerned about possible federal prosecution?
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 www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Attorney General Announces Formal Medical Marijuana Guidelines.” Press release. 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Powers, Scott. “Marijuana Program Draws 42 Doctors Statewide.” Health. Orlando Sentinel: 19 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Sherman, Amy and Gillin, Joshua. “PolitiFact Florida: Will Doctors Write Prescriptions for Medical Marijuana if You Have an Itchy Back?” PolitiFact Florida. Tampa Bay Times: 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
Wright, Esq., Brian K. “The Regulatory Impact of Medical Marijuana on Health Care Providers and Other Stakeholders.” PowerPoint presentation. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
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. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.
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