What does the passage of Amendment 2 mean for medical marijuana in Florida?

While much of the discussion in the wake of Election Day has been understandably focused on the results of the races for state and, of course, federal office, it's important not to overlook some of the more interesting ballot initiatives from across the 50 states.

Indeed, the issue of marijuana loomed large on the ballots in several states with voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada deciding to legalize the drug for recreational purposes and voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and, of course, Florida deciding to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

What does Amendment 2 do exactly?

Back on November 8, over 70 percent of people here in the Sunshine State voted for the legalization of medical marijuana via Amendment 2, well ahead of the 60 percent required for passage.

As to what the measure does, it will officially takes effect on January 3, 2017, and allow licensed physicians to recommend full-strength marijuana for patients with whom they have at least a 90-day relationship and who are suffering from one of many "debilitating" illnesses (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, etc.).

It also vests the Florida Department of Health with the authority to license growers, labs and dispensaries.

Doesn't the state already have medical marijuana?

There is currently a program in Florida that allows a limited number of patients suffering from designated conditions to secure a non-euphoric strain of medical marijuana and terminally-ill patients to secure full strength marijuana. Both strains of the drug are grown, processed and dispensed by six labs licensed by the state.

For now, it remains unclear what will happen to this older program. Experts are predicting, however, that it will likely be terminated by state lawmakers in the upcoming session given that there is little need for two medical marijuana programs.

Does the passage of Amendment 2 mean people are free to start growing or using marijuana for medicinal purposes right now?

No. State health regulators have until July to establish rules governing the industry, while lawmakers will start visiting the issue when they reconvene in March, needing to establish a host of new laws.

What this means is that the current medical marijuana program is still in place, and anyone not authorized to participate is technically breaking the law. Accordingly, dispensary doors must stay closed, shovels must sit idle and prospective patients must wait patiently.

It's also worth noting, of course, that marijuana is still considered illegal for all purposes under federal law owing to its classification as a Schedule I drug.

If you are under investigation or have been arrested on federal drug charges, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as the stakes are too high.

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