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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v17/n032/a03.html
Newshawk: http://drugpolicycentral.com/bot/
Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 15 Jan 2017
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2017 Orlando Sentinel
Website: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/325
Note: Rarely prints out-of-state LTEs.


TALLAHASSEE — Even as the state prepares to carry out a constitutional amendment authorizing medical marijuana, a lack of guidance from health officials could create a “very murky and dangerous legal area” for patients and doctors.

Authors of the amendment, industry insiders and legislative leaders have called on the Department of Health to clarify what doctors and dispensing organizations can legally do under existing state laws and the voter-approved amendment that went into effect Tuesday.

To date, the health agency has remained mum, referring only to the language of the constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in November and to state laws approved in 2014 and 2016.

Health officials have repeatedly refused requests for an interview with Christian Bax, the Office of Compassionate Use director, who has been at the helm since the state’s first pot purveyors started cultivating this year.

Recent questions center on whether doctors are allowed to add to an existing state database patients who qualify under the constitutional amendment, which includes a host of diseases not previously authorized for cannabis treatment.

Medical industry officials and a state lawmaker instrumental in the passage of current laws regulating medical marijuana advised doctors to be cautious.

“If you are suffering from one of the conditions that is listed in the constitutional amendment and you sought medical cannabis for those treatments, you would be working and dealing in a very murky and dangerous legal area,” state Sen.  Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said Tuesday.

A Department of Health spokeswoman provided little insight Tuesday when asked whether physicians are allowed to add patients eligible under so-called Amendment 2 to the existing database.

“Doctors should probably consult their legal representation to ask that question,” agency spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said.

Under current laws, doctors may order non-euphoric marijuana for patients with chronic muscle spasms or cancer, or full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients.

But some doctors have started to add patients who meet the requirements of the broader Amendment 2 to the state-run “compassionate use registry,” even before health officials have crafted rules governing the newly approved amendment.

“I certainly wouldn’t proceed to order medical marijuana under the expanded category of conditions pursuant to Amendment 2 until there’s been legislative or rule-making action by the department,” said Jeff Scott, the Florida Medical Association’s general counsel.

Bradley said he plans to shepherd a bill laying out guidelines for the constitutional amendment during the legislative session that begins in March.

In the meantime, proponents of Amendment 2 as well as some marijuana operators are demanding that the department provide adequate guidance to the industry about the proposal approved by more than 70 percent of Floridians in November. 

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