Pubdate: Sun, 15 Jan 2017
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2017 Orlando Sentinel
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

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

"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

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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