Two significant updates have occurred in 2022 that affect current and potential medical marijuana patients in Florida. One update is a welcome introduction, allowing most Florida residents to obtain their certification and temporary card the same day as they apply. However, the second update is not a welcome or popular change to the program, not to mention that it has been attempted before (without success).
Removal of the Payment Processing Hold Allowing Immediate Application Approval
The most exciting update, particularly for new patients and all those who forgot to renew and had their medical card lapse, is the removal of the 5-business day hold on application fee payments to the state, which began February 1st, 2022. This change ultimately means that patients with an unrestricted Florida license or ID Card will get IMMEDIATE APPROVAL upon application completion, so as long the OMMU can confirm residency with the DMV information on file. Any protected licenses usually found when someone works for or has worked for law enforcement, government, or anyone who has had their address redacted in the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will not populate or be able to verify electronically. In these cases, or with seasonal residents, the standard time frame of up to 10-business days will still apply.
It is important to note that the information populated on the application can sometimes differ from what’s on your physical license. This automation error commonly occurs if a patient moved or changed a vehicle registration to a different address, as this new address often updates automatically with the DMV. If this happens, individuals must make the required information changes with the department of motor vehicles.
Introduction of a 35-day Rolling Limit on Whole Flower
The much less popular change going into effect (again!) is the whole flower dispensing limit. In the past, each patient’s purchasing limitation of whole flower would reset every 35 days, allowing someone to purchase 2.5 oz on the last day of their 35-day window and then again 24 hours later when the new 35-day period began. Unfortunately, the state frowns upon this, and to comply with FS 381.986(8)(e)16b., they are introducing a modified 35-day rolling limit.
Per Florida regulation, medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs):
“May not dispense more than one 35-day supply of marijuana in a form for smoking within any 35-day period to a qualified patient or caregiver”.
This new rolling period calculates the total dispensation history over the last 35-days subtracted from the ordered amount (up to 2.5 oz). This calculation is automatically updated in real-time and can be viewed on your patient OMMU profile. The OMMU clarifies that the 35-day cycle is not based on the calendar month or date the certification is issued.
In the cases of light to moderate medical cannabis usage, patients, for the most part, will not be impacted as they do not often exceed the whole flower limit over any 35-day window. Unfortunately, those who only utilize whole-flower or smoke more frequently may need to look into other allowable methods of use. This new rule appears arbitrary since a smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 POUNDS of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a potentially lethal response. Therefore, the determination that approximately two (2) grams per day be considered the fair limit for all patients facing any of the qualified medical conditions does not appear to have been made for the sake of the patient’s best interests. Nevertheless, on March 1st, 2022, this F.S. becomes law and will be enforced until the rule changes or the state enforces all the statutes under 381.986, including the ability for qualified physicians to request an increase to the 2.5oz limit. Sadly, this supposed ability to request an exemption to increase the limit has yet been made possible to practitioners, although it is clearly outlined in state statute chapter 381 section 986 paragraph 4 (f) (see below):
A qualified physician may request an exception to the daily dose amount limit, the 35-day supply limit of marijuana in a form for smoking, and the 4-ounce possession limit of marijuana in a form for smoking established in paragraph (14)(a). The request shall be made electronically on a form adopted by the department in rule and must include, at a minimum:
a. The qualified patient’s qualifying medical condition.
b. The dosage and route of administration that was insufficient to provide relief to the qualified patient.
c. A description of how the patient will benefit from an increased amount.
d. The minimum daily dose amount of marijuana that would be sufficient for the treatment of the qualified patient’s qualifying medical condition.
Overall, we are pleased to see the OMMU move forward with the accelerated approval process, making medical cannabis much quicker and easier for patients to access than ever before. On the other hand, we respectfully disagree with the apparent picking and choosing of which statutes should be enforced and abided by versus which ones should not. Either rewrite the F.S. or make the ability for qualified physicians to file a waiver (see above) available for those patients who genuinely require a more significant amount of smokeable cannabis than the 2.5oz per 35-days. To get certified or recertified for medical cannabis, reach out to Compassionate Healthcare of Florida at 833-633-3665.