Florida’s Department of Health expects to issue licenses under the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” (also known as “Charlotte’s Web”) before the end of the year, thereby bringing Florida’s medical marijuana law one step closer to implementation. Despite the passage of Charlotte’s Web during June 2014, the law has been mired in legal challenges almost ever since. The selection process for the licenses was able to move forward after Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins upheld the Department of Health’s revised set of rules on May 27, 2015. In spite of the legal challenges that have slowed the implementation process to a near halt at times over the last year, the Department of Health is nevertheless close to selecting the five regional licensees authorized to operate under Charlotte’s Web, which is a major step for businesses, patients, and doctors to operate under it.
Other medical marijuana initiatives are also afoot. The Florida Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear oral arguments on December 8th regarding the validity of a new constitutional amendment proposed for inclusion in the November, 2016 ballot. A similar constitutional amendment initiative, called the “Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative,” and commonly known as “Amendment 2,” narrowly failed to reach the 60% vote required for passage during November, 2014. Amendment 2 would have permitted physicians to prescribe forms of marijuana not allowed by Charlotte’s Web, including forms with higher levels of THC, in connection with the treatment of a wider range of medical conditions than Charlotte’s Web allows. With that experience from 2014 in mind, proponents of the proposed 2016 amendment have drafted it to take account of the criticisms lodged against Amendment 2.
Meanwhile, in the Florida House of Representatives, two medical marijuana bills (HB 63 and HB 307) have been pre-filed in connection with the 2016 legislative session. Earlier this year, Florida Senate Bill 7066 (also known as the Low-THC Cannabis Act) failed because it did not have a “companion bill” in the Florida House of Representatives. The pre-filing of HB 63 and HB 307 could portend the Florida Legislature’s willingness and ability to pass what many view as a necessary broadening of Florida’s current medical marijuana framework provided by Charlotte’s Web.