On Monday, June 16th, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a restrictive medical marijuana bill that legalizes a specific strain of marijuana for compassionate medical use. The law limits both the type of pot to be used, and specifies that it only applies to patients that suffer from epileptic seizures and other severe illnesses.
Beginning January 1st, 2016, the State department of Health will be allowed to setup five dispensaries across the state. These will begin to provide a strain of marijuana known as "Charlotte's Web", which has been selectively grown to limit the amount of buzz-inducing THC. The cannabidiol (CBD) rich strain has been selectively bred to impart the purported medical benefits of pot without the euphoric 'high' associated with most strains of marijuana.
The law is the first of two potential changes to the medical marijuana landscape in Florida. In November, voters will decide on amendment 2, which would further expand patient's access to pot by further loosening laws against marijuana distribution within the state constitution.
Advocates suggest that the amendment will allow doctors to treat a much broader range of conditions using the controversial drug, while critics suggest that it's a step toward full legalization. While attempts have been made to legalize recreational marijuana in the Sunshine State, they have proven unsuccessful. Senator Dwight Bullard introduced a bill in February of 2014 that had intended to legalize recreational marijuana, however it was effectively killed in May.
According to state figures, over 400,000 Floridians are expected to sign up for access to medical marijuana in the first year if amendment 2 is passed. State estimates predict that the amount of tax revenue is expected to offset the $1.1 million cost of implemting the law, falling between a broad range of $8.3 million and $330 million annually. (The estimates are broad because of the fluctuating per-ounce price of pot, and also because the law leaves it up to the state Department of Health to determine how much marijuana an individual can purchase.)
If 60% of Florida voters approve the measure, it would allow doctors to prescribe forms of marijuana that fall outside the scope of the bill signed into law this week.