Navigating the Complex Regulatory Environment of Medical Marijuana in Florida

As states continue to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana, businesses, patients, and law makers are left to determine the ins and outs of state based legalization. Congress has begun to show interest in tackling this issue at the federal level with legislation such as the Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, and the Senate Farm Bill. However, nothing has been signed into law, so we are relying on memos and DEA Internal Directives to guide stakeholders on regulatory activities.

The State of Florida has legalized medicinal cannabis for patients that suffer from a variety of conditions and illnesses. However, not all patients who qualify for a medical marijuana card are obtaining them, some are looking at CBD and hemp products to help treat their ailments. The regulatory environment for marijuana and hemp based products is complicated, so having someone to help you wade through state and federal law is important.

Marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, but enforcement of the regulations guiding Florida marijuana companies will likely come from state agencies. In December 2017, the state of Colorado shut down 26 legal pot businesses for violating the selling limits for customers. At the beginning of 2018, California warned almost 500 businesses that their marijuana operations were illegal.

Physicians who can issue patients a prescription for medical marijuana must successfully complete a 2-hour course and subsequent examination offered by the Florida Medical Association or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. An important provision in Florida’s medical marijuana law states that a qualified physician may not be employed by, or have any direct or indirect economic interest in, a medical marijuana treatment center or marijuana testing laboratory (FL Statute 381.986 (3)(b)). Statute 381.986 (3)(b) has the potential to create a regulatory nightmare for physicians and physician groups who are in violation of the law.

In addition to physicians having rigorous regulatory guidelines, Marijuana Treatment Centers have extremely specific policies to abide by. Failure to regularly audit and monitor compliance with state regulations will leave your business open to enforcement actions. The regulations permit a statewide maximum of 25 dispensing facilities, with an increase of 5 more facilities per 100,000 registered patients.  There are also regional requirements that Marijuana Treatment Centers must adhere to. Groups may sell their dispensary slots and there are reporting guidelines that companies must follow. It is critical to have legal counsel review all contracts before engaging in the sale of a dispensary slot, and the proper compliance systems in place to accurately report the transaction.

The cultivation of medicinal cannabis to the sale of products to patients requires the use of a seed to sale tracking system that will eventually will be established and maintained by the state. Florida law also details strict rules involving the cultivation of medical marijuana and contracting with third parties for various business needs, such as lease agreements, hiring employees, transfer of ownership, security equipment, etc.

The most important action businesses in the medical marijuana industry can take is creating a solid compliance plan that will regulate all aspects of the business. Our firm is able to provide cost-effective plans to help facilitate the proper systems to abide by Florida law and ensure that employees are following the guidelines.

If you need assistance with Florida regulatory issues related to medical marijuana, contact Candace Lerman, Esq. , Of Counsel to the Lerman Law Firm, for assistance via email: Candace@lermanfirm.com or Cathy Lerman via email at clerman@lermanfirm.com..