(SS) With the passage of Amendment 2, the clock begins ticking this January for the Florida Department of Health, which has six months from then to come up with regulations governing Florida's new medical marijuana industry.
The amendment had 71 percent of the vote, with 60 percent needed to pass. Support was especially strong in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where 75 percent of voters approved.
It was a big comeback from 2014, when a similar amendment failed to pass with 58 percent of the vote.
Amendment 2 will allow marijuana use for people with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis "or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class."
That "kind or class" language, meant to further limit who qualifies for marijuana, was one of three major changes proponents of Amendment 2 made when crafting this year's language.
They also specifically required parental consent in the amendment language, one of the primary points of contention in 2014, despite the fact that non-emergency medical treatment requires parental consent.
This year's ballot language also allows the state to limit the amount of patients a caregiver can tend to at any one time. Allowing people other than patients to pick up the marijuana and deliver it is necessary because many of those who qualify are unable to get the marijuana themselves. In 2014, another criticism was that the unlimited amount of patients per caregiver would mean drug dealers would become "caregivers" to sell their product.
Amendment 2 was one of four amendments Floridians considered this November, along with numbers 1, 3 and 5. Amendment 4, which mandates that solar-energy equipment not be counted toward any property's value in terms of property tax, was a rare primary-election initiative. The state Legislature moved it to August to avoid confusion with another solar-energy amendment. Of the remaining three:
- Amendment 1, a controversial solar-energy amendment that guaranteed Floridians the right to use solar energy, but also could have opened the door to limiting net metering in the state, failed to pass, garnering only 51 percent of the vote. By Nov. 8, it had become the most expensive constitutional amendment campaign in Florida history, with more than $26 million raised by Consumers for Smart Solar, the group backing the amendment, most of it from Florida's utility companies.
- Amendment 3, which will allow the Legislature to pass legislation waiving property taxes for first responders who are permanently and fully disabled in the line of duty, passed with 84 percent of the vote.
- Amendment 5, which clears up the language of a previous amendment giving a tax break to low-income seniors who have lived in the same property for at least 25 years. The tax break comes in on a property worth less than $250,000, but it could have gone away if the property's value increased above that limit. This amendment changes that so that the tax break is on the value of the property at the time the senior citizen applies for the tax break, and is not tied to rising and falling housing prices. The amendment passed with 78 percent of the vote.
With passage of Amendment 2, the Florida Department of Health now has six months to create regulations for the new marijuana industry, including procedures for issuing marijuana patient cards, establishing qualifications for caregivers, registering dispensaries and deciding on what a proper dosage of pot is for any of the qualifying ailments.
If the department does not create these regulations in six months, the ballot language allows any citizen of Florida to sue the department and get the courts to force the department to issue rules.
Along with the required regulations from the health department, it's likely that the state Legislature will also pass laws regulating medical marijuana in the upcoming legislative session in March, though it's too soon to say what precisely lawmakers will do.
And the health department already has a head start thanks to the legislature. Two years ago, the state Legislature passed a limited medical marijuana law that allowed people with cancer, epilepsy and severe muscle spasms to receive non-euphoric strains of medical marijuana in non-smokeable form.
Some of the rules put in place in the wake of that law's passage could be carried over now, but other parts of that law may have to change. For example, the law limited the amount of dispensaries to just five — there are six after a lawsuit allowed one more — and it's unlikely those will be enough to respond to demand under the new constitutional amendment.