- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation expanding the use of telehealth for renewing medical marijuana certifications in Florida.
- The new law allows physicians to conduct remote renewals for qualified patients, while still requiring an in-person examination for the initial certification.
- The legislation also includes provisions to broaden access to licensure for Black farmers involved in the Pigford v. Glickman/In Re Black Farmers case.
Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded the foundation of medical marijuana-focused telehealth on Monday evening, signing legislation that allows physicians to use telehealth methods to renew certifications for qualified patients.
The legislation keeps in place a Covid-era requirement that mandates a physician to conduct an initial qualifying physical examination that enables a patient to receive a medical marijuana card in person but establishes that renewals could be completed remotely. During the pandemic, state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo authorized physicians to grant certification renewals remotely, but the order expired in June 2020.
“[The bill] would treat the use of medical marijuana just like other medicines in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Spencer Roach, who introduced the bill. “We sort of had an unforced trial run with this in Florida for approximately eight months. [We] really didn’t see any problems there.”
During an appearance before the House Health and Human Services Committee in March, Roach also touched on several factors that doctors and physicians must take into account under the legislation when granting an individual a medical marijuana card, including their propensity to become addicted to the drug. The statute would mirror restrictions and prohibitions that are currently written into state law.
“One of the things they have to consider is that the use of marijuana to treat a condition would outweigh the health risks to the patient,” said Roach. “It’s the same thing a doctor would do when prescribing an opioid or other addictive substance.”
The measure additionally broadens access to licensure for Black farmers involved in the Pigford v. Glickman/In Re Black Farmers case following added amendments by Senators Darryl Rouson and Tracie Davis. Previously, the Florida Department of Health was required to grant licenses to Pigford case litigants, but legal complications delayed the process. Provisions within the legislation aim to resolve the issue by granting licenses to applicants who meet specific criteria, such as having received a notice of approval or denial with no deficiencies or rectifying application deficiencies within 90 days.
“This bill represents the best side of the legislative process – working together across the aisle to solve a problem,” said Davis. “Today, we have accomplished a major step in a years-long effort to give Black farmers entry into Florida’s flourishing medical marijuana industry. This bill is a solution from a number of stakeholders and a victory for farmers, their families, and for civil rights. I’m thrilled beyond words to see it cross the finish line, so that these Floridians can make up for lost time.”
In Florida, medical marijuana is available for patients who have been diagnosed with debilitating cancer, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s disease, among nearly a dozen additional ailments.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Florida with the passing of Amendment 2 in November 2016. The ballot initiative legalized the use of medical marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions and permitted patients to possess the drug for medicinal use.
The legalization of medical marijuana in Florida has a net positive on the state’s economy. Since its legalization, the medical marijuana market reached nearly $1 billion in sales in 2020, making it one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the United States.