January 2017 marked a historic day for cannabis activists in Florida, when the state government passed Amendment 2, a measure allowing patients with certain medical conditions, deemed debilitating enough to affect their daily life, the freedom to purchase and consume medical marijuana. Like many states, Florida has been slow to roll out the actual dispensary network needed to support medical users. Due to continuing federal restrictions on cannabis and its status as a Schedule I drug, growers have to go through an arduous and slow process in order to bring their products to new markets when they open up.
Fortunately, 2019 is upon us and Florida now has a bustling crop of dispensaries. If you’re a Florida resident who’s been curious about how cannabis could benefit you, you’re probably wondering how to actually go about getting one of those “med cards.” It’s actually technically a Florida Marijuana License, and getting one isn’t as hard as you think.
Patients in Florida have to have been diagnosed with at least one item on a list of “debilitating medical conditions” for their cannabis use to be legally protected under the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The qualifying conditions are:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS / Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Crohn’s disease
- HIV / AIDS
- Chronic muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Any ailment/condition “of the same severity/symptoms”
That last entry is a bit of a gray area and can be useful for sufferers of conditions that aren’t quite as well understood by the medical community, like insomnia or chronic pain. Be honest with your doctor about your symptoms and how they affect your life. Don’t be afraid to bring in your own research from reputable medical journals. If marijuana has ever been clinically studied for its effects on people with your condition, that’s a big help in making your case.
Step 1: Be a Florida Resident
This isn’t like Amsterdam or Colorado. No medical tourism allowed. To even begin the process of getting a Florida MMJ card you must be, and be able to prove, you are a resident. Though no minimum term of residency was formally established in Amendment 2, medical cannabis patients will need to be able to provide proof of residency. Usually, this can be established by showing your Florida driver’s license or state ID, providing a lease or mortgage with your name on it, or bringing in copies of utility bills in your name that show they are being delivered to a Florida address.
Step 2: Make an Appointment With a Licensed Medical Marijuana Doctor
You’ll need to bring your medical records to a doctor who has a Florida Medical Marijuana License and schedule a consultation about the medical issue you think cannabis could help you manage. Most importantly, and this differs from some other medical marijuana states, you have to have been a patient with this doctor for at least three months. To make sure your doctor is registered with the state’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry, check this list.
Step 3: Consult With Your Doctor
Once you and your doctor have discussed your condition and your doctor agrees that medical cannabis is a good treatment for your needs, your doctor will register your name into the Florida Marijuana Use Registry, also known as the Compassionate Care Registry. This list is maintained by the Florida Department of Health, and they won’t grant your MMJ card until they see your name on that list.
Step 4: Submit Your Application Online
You or your physician will need to fill out a form and submit it to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The form itself isn’t too complicated, but be advised that this can be the slowest part of the process. Even if all your paperwork is spotless, the Department of Health can take up to two months to review your application. This is why it’s best to get started on the process as early as possible, especially if you’re worried your condition might worsen in time.
Know the Costs
The fee to consult with your doctor will vary, but know that many health insurance plans won’t cover it, so be prepared to pay out of pocket. Estimated Cost: $100-300
You’ll have to pay this online when you submit your application. Most people pay with a credit or debit card, but you can also mail a check to the Department of Health. This may add even more processing time to your application. Cost: $75
Medical Marijuana Cards have the patient’s photo on them, to prevent other people from using the same card. Each medical marijuana patient must have his or her own card, no sharing allowed. You’ll need to provide the Department of Health with a passport-style photo of yourself, available at most drugstores and some office supply stores, as well as many post offices. These are usually inexpensive. Estimated Cost: $10-25
Due to an awareness that patients’ conditions may change, or perhaps as a compromise with elements in the Florida state legislature who want marijuana use to be as difficult as possible even for medical patients, Florida MMJ cards have to be renewed annually. This means going through every step, even the $75 registration fee, again. This is a good example of why Florida cannabis activists consider Amendment 2 to be a victory, but not the end of the struggle. If medical cannabis has been a benefit to you and your quality of life, make sure you let your representatives know.
Once You Get Your Card
Remember to stay on top of your annual renewals. The Department of Health recommends starting the renewal process at least forty-five days before your card’s expiration date so you aren’t left with a gap in coverage.
Once you have your card, you’re clear to purchase your cannabis at any of the 80 licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC) in the state of Florida. If you don’t live close to any of these locations, most dispensaries offer free statewide delivery. Just make sure to allow sufficient travel time so you aren’t left without medication for too long.
Your Florida MMJ card does not grant you the right to grow cannabis plants, even for personal use. Remember not to cross state or national borders with your medicine, even if you’re traveling to another legal state. But congratulations, Florida, you’re legal!