There is a still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Florida’s slow-moving efforts to implement the legalization of medical marijuana. Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment last November stating that the “medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver” should not be subject to civil or criminal liability under state law. But Florida lawmakers, in adopting rules to implement the amendment, nonetheless decided to forbid patients from using marijuana in the easiest and most common way–i.e., smoking it.
Legislators Reject Smoking, Approve Vaping and Tincture
Although the active ingredient in marijuana–known as THC–can be consumed in many forms, most people associate marijuana use with “smoking a joint,” i.e. inhaling the vapors released by burning a cigarette containing cannabis plants. The constitutional amendment approved by voters states that nothing in the amendment shall require the state or local governments to permit “smoking medical marijuana in any public place.” But the amendment is otherwise silent on whether smokable marijuana should or should not be a legal form of medical cannabis.
Following a special session to address the issue, Florida legislators decided to exclude smoking marijuana from the definition of lawful “medical use.” Instead, under a bill approved by both houses on June 9, authorized patients cannot possess or use any cannabis products that are not “purchased or acquired from a medical marijuana treatment center” licensed by the state. And these dealers may not sell smokable marijuana or joints.
One Florida lawmaker told the press that the ban on smoked marijuana was justified for health reasons. “Breathing in soot, breathing in ash, carries a definite detriment, which we didn’t want to extend to medical marijuana,” state Rep. Carey Pigman told WCTV-TV. Another legislator, state Sen. Jeff Clemens, said that “when 90 percent of patients access a product one way and the state does not allow that, then they are not instituting the will of the voters,” according to U.S. News and World Report.
So what are the legal options for medical marijuana patients? The legislature did approve “vaping,” which is where cannabis flowers are heated to a temperature just below their combustion point. This is considered by many experts to be safer than smoking traditional marijuana cigarettes, since vaping does not force the patient to inhale potentially toxic chemicals.
The legislature also authorized cannabis “edibles” and tincture. Edibles must be a commercially produced food item using only marijuana oil and are not marketed “to be attractive to children.” Tincture is a type of cannabis-infused alcohol that some medical marijuana patients prefer as a lower-calorie alternative to edibles.
Have You Been Charged With Illegal Marijuana Possession in Florida?
The legislature’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unlikely to be the last word on the subject. John Morgan, the Florida attorney who was a key supporter of the original constitutional amendment, said he would “be suing the state to allow smoke,” which he said was always the intent of the measure. But at least for now, possessing a joint is still a crime under federal and state law, even with a doctor’s authorization.
If you or a family member are in legal trouble for possession of marijuana, you need to speak with a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced drug crimes lawyers.