Pennsylvania House of Representatives Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On March 16, 2016, Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives passed a measure that would legalize medical marijuana in certain forms. The vote was 149-43, with all voting Democrats and more than half of Republicans in support of the bill. The bill now moves onto the Senate, which has already approved an earlier version of the measure 10 months ago.

Growth in Medical Marijuana Programs.

In 2014, the Senate approved medical marijuana legislation, but stalled in committee and never reached a vote in the House. In 2015, the original version of the bill passed the Senate by a 40-7 vote. House Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, who is a major proponent of medical marijuana said, “We want to get this done ASAP.”

The bill that passed would establish a system of growers and dispensaries to provide marijuana to patients with certain conditions. These conditions include cancer, epilepsy, HIV and AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All patients are required to be certified by a doctor.

The Stipulations of the Bill.

Under this bill, patients would be allowed to use marijuana in the form of a pill or oil, or through vaporization but they would not be allowed to smoke it. Sales from the dispensaries would be taxed at 5 percent, with the money paying for the Department of Health (DOH) operations for the program. It will also go toward law enforcement and drug abuse services and for research about medical marijuana in general.

Gov. Tom Wolf, indicated that he was eager to pass the legislation and sign the finished product. “We will finally provide the essential help needed by patients suffering from seizures cancer and other illnesses,” Mr. Wolf stated.

If you want to learn more about medical marijuana legislation, click here to read our medical marijuana law blog.  Be sure to check back regularly as we update our blog with helpful information frequently.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Packel, Dan. “Medical Marijuana Bill Clears Pa. House.” Law360. (March 16, 2016). Web.

Langley, Karen. “Pennsylvania House passes medical marijuana bill.” Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau. (March 16, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: medical marijuana, medical marijuana growers, medical marijuana cultivation, medical marijuana license, Pennsylvania medical cannabis, medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, Department of Health (DOH), Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, medical marijuana regulations, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition, formal administrative hearing

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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Florida Gets a Green Light on First Five Growers as Medical Marijuana Program Expands: Five Pot Growers Hit Jackpot

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) awarded the state’s first licenses to five nurseries, allowing them to legally grow and cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. The nurseries selected are Costa Nursery Farms in Miami, Alpha Foliage of Homestead, Knox Nursery of Winter Garden, Hackney Nursery Company in Tallahassee and Chestnut Hill Tree Farm of Alachua.

Compassionate Use in Florida.

With these licenses, the five nurseries are permitted to grow Charlotte’s Web, a liquid form of cannabis low in THC, the chemical that gives a euphoric feeling. It is intended to treat patients with epilepsy and advanced stages of cancer. For patients to qualify for the treatment, they must obtain permission from a qualified doctor and be added to the Compassionate Use Registry. Compassionate use is the experimental use of a medical product that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To read more about compassionate use and the registry from The DOH, click here.


Applicant Rules and Guidelines.

The five nurseries were selected out of a pool of 28 applicants with businesses in Florida for at least 30 years that grow a minimum of 400,000 plants. Each of the growers now have 10 business days to post a $5 million performance bond to prove they are serious about the license. Several nurseries that were selected have partnered with consultants, investors, security firms and out of state marijuana growers to help develop plans and secure the performance bond.

Expanding the Medical Marijuana Program.

Medical Marijuana is well on its way to Florida and these first five growers are just the beginning. A Florida House Panel recently approved House Bill 307, to expand the small medical marijuana program. Under this Bill, terminally ill patients can purchase marijuana from a licensed grower with approval from two doctors. Not only did the House Justice Subcommittee approve House Bill 307 by a 9-4 vote, they tacked on new language to increase the number of growers to 20. The bill passed its first hurdle and moves next to the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. To find out more details on House Bill 307, click here.

To read further on Medical Marijuana legislation in Florida, read one of our past blogs here.

Serious Questions Regarding Monopolistic Actions.

I have some very serious questions as to whether or not the state is unfairly limiting the number of medical marijuana growers. Surely there is a need for more than five of them. This has got to be perceived as capricious and arbitrary by any court reviewing it.

If the proposed Florida constitutional amendment passes during the next election, as many predict it will, then such an artificial limitation on the number of growers may well be determined to violate the intent of the amendment. With all of the scrutiny being focused on state medical agencies by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for anti-competitive practices, the artificially low number of permitted growers is found to invite future litigation from pateints and from competing growers who were shut out of the market.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on the availability of medical marijuana in Florida? Do you agree with the expansion of the medical marijuana program? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Sources:

Auslen, Michael. “Florida medical marijuana plan expanded to 20 growers.” Bradenton Herald. 17 Nov. 2015. Web.

Klas, Mary Ellen. “Florida approves 5 nurseriers to grow medical marijuana.” Miami Herald. 24 Nov. 2015. Web.

Powers, Scott. “5 growers get state’s 1st pot license.” Orlando Sentinel. 24 Nov. 2015. Print.

KeyWords: Florida medical marijuana, medical marijuana growers, medical marijuana cultivation, medical marijuana license, Charlotte’s Web, House Bill 307, medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, Department of Health (DOH), Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, medical marijuana regulations, medical license defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Shortage of Florida Physicians Approved to Recommend “Green Leaf Relief” for Patients

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida may be “going green” in a big way come November 2016; and I’m not talking about recycling.  The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Ballot Initiative Amendment 2, has undergone revisions, and will likely be making its second run with voters since its marginal loss in 2014.  Promoters of the Constitutional Amendment predict success; hopefully this isn’t just a pipe dream.

However, the Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, currently allows low-THC cannabis to be utilized only by qualifying patients for certain medical ailments.  A licensed physician, as outlined in Chapter 458 or 459 of Florida Statutes, is required to qualify patients for the use of medical marijuana.

For FAQ’s on low-THC cannabis issued by the Florida Department of Health (DOH), click here.

Physician Requirements for Qualifying Patients and Ordering.

For a patient to qualify to obtain and use THC, a previously approved physician must examine and currently be treating a patient for a debilitating illness.  Such illnesses include cancer or any physical medical condition or ailment that produces chronic seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms (such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis).  Furthermore, the physician must have tried all other options of treatment without satisfactory results.  Medical marijuana must be a last resort alternative.  Section 381.986(2), Florida Statutes (2015).

One of the physician ordering requirements is that the doctor must “register as the orderer of low-THC cannabis for the named patient on the compassionate use registry maintained by the department [of health] and update the registry to reflect the contents of the order.”  Section 381.986(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

In order to become registered in Florida, licensed physicians must successfully complete an 8-hour course, offered by either the Florida Medical Association (FMA) or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association (FOMA).  It is necessary for the physician to satisfactorily pass an examination upon completion of the course.  Section 381.986(4), Florida Statutes (2015).

Currently, only 42 doctors varied throughout Florida in areas to include Orlando, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, have signed up for authorization.

Why the Lack of Physicians?

Several theories may account for the lack of physician involvement in the program in Florida.

One of the theories that may explain why physicians are hesitant to jump on board with this new-age line of treatment, is the lack of scientific research conducted in the United States to back the medical efficacy of medical marijuana.  Scientists are reluctant to answer even the most basic questions about the use of medical marijuana including the long-term risks, actual benefits and the overall effect of legalization.

Many physicians may be concerned that the use of medical marijuana is supported more by popular opinion than on actual medical research.

However, a primary reason for insignificant research may be due to the unavailability of the drug for scientific study due to its illegal status.  The federal government entirely restricts the authorization to use marijuana for medical research.  The media is replete with stories on this.  As the debate over marijuana and its legalization for medical use becomes more widespread and pertinent, the drug has concurrently become more available for research.

For more information on current medical marijuana research efforts as reported by U.S.A. Today, click here.

Who Will Dispense the Marijuana?

Another hold-up in support from physicians may be due to the fact that the Department of Health (DOH) is still in the process of selecting the five dispensing organizations throughout Florida that will be developing and dispensing the drug.

As originally proposed, this requires an arduous application process presently consisting of proposals from 24 competing companies.  A dispensing organization must have the ability to meet several requirements as set forth in the statues, including the financial ability to post a $5 million performance bond upon approval.  Section 381.986(5)(b), Florida Statutes (2015).

Many physicians are still waiting to know where the drugs will be dispensed, what the dosages will be, what forms they will be available in and how much they will cost.  These are all important factors to consider in determining whether or not medical marijuana may be beneficial to certain patients.

Penalties for Misuse.

A final reason for physician avoidance of marijuana is fear of criminal prosecution and discipline by their boards, given the lingering gray areas of the law.

To read one of our previous blogs regarding a federal judge’s challenge of the DOJ’s incorrect interpretation of federal law on medical marijuana prosecutions and a win for medical marijuana advocates across the nation, click here.

It is undisputed that the use of medical marijuana is on the rise.  Therefore, any licensed physician who is contemplating or has already signed up for the program, needs to be sure they are in strict compliance with Florida law.

A physician is committing a misdemeanor, which may result in criminal penalties, if he or she orders low-THC cannabis for a patient without possessing a reasonable belief that the patient is suffering from one of the debilitating medical conditions as described in Section 381.986(3)(a)(1) and (2), Florida Statutes.

It is one of the ongoing duties of the dispensing organizations established by the Department to “monitor physician registration and ordering of low-THC cannabis for ordering practices that could facilitate unlawful diversion or misuse of low-THC cannabis and take disciplinary action as indicated.”  Section 381.986(5)(b)(7)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

Therefore, a physician interested in obtaining authorization to order medical marijuana for his or her patients, should contact an experienced health attorney as a safeguard to ensure he or she complies fully with the law.

Comments?

Why do you believe there is a lack of physician involvement in Florida in the medical marijuana program?  What are your thoughts on the availability of medical marijuana in Florida?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Sources:

Powers, Scott.  “Medical-pot backers unfazed only 42 doctors in program.”  Orlando Sentinel 20 August 2015: Final.  Print.

Caputo, Mark.  “Medical marijuana supporters unveil new proposal for 2016.”  Miami Herald.  8 January 2015.  Web.  27 August 2015.

Keywords: medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, complaint against physician, Florida law, health attorney, doctor defense attorney Department of Health, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, disciplinary action for prescribing, medical marijuana regulations, prescribing controlled substances, physicians recommending marijuana, health regulation lawyer, medical license defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, DEA defense lawyer, medical marijuana ordering physician, compassionate-use in Florida, physician certifications for medical marijuana, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Cancer Patients Must Provide DOH Approval for Seizures and Muscle Spasms, or May Be Unqualified for Low-THC Medical Marijuana

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law

Barnhart v. Dep’t of Health, Div. Admin. Hearings, Case No. 15-1271RP (Final Order April 10, 2015).

Following is a summary of a recent Division of Administrative Hearings case summary, taken from The Florida Bar Administrative Law Section Newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 4 (June 2015).

FACTS: On February 6, 2015, the Department of Health (“DOH”) published a notice of proposed rule-making setting forth the text of six proposed rules to implement the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 (“the Act”). The Act provides in part that certain physicians treating patients suffering from cancer or a condition that chronically produces seizures or severe muscle spasms may order low-THC cannabis for those patients’ treatment.

The Petitioner filed a Petition asserting that one of the proposed rules (64-4.002) is an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.  In support thereof, the Petitioner alleged that she is a four-year-old Florida resident diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and she treats her condition with medical cannabis extracts. The Petitioner further alleged that she plans to register with the Office of Compassionate Use Registry to become a “qualified patient” for the medical use of low THC cannabis.

The Petition also contained allegations regarding the harm that would result without an adopted rule. For instance, the Petition alleged there is a “desperate need for access to low THC cannabis” and that expedited rule promulgation was necessary because the “selected applicants will be responsible for ensuring access to ordered medication, with greater risk of public injury if there is no access to medicine.” The Petition also asserted that potential applicants eligible to become dispensing organizations would be harmed by the proposed rule’s “overly burdensome” application, scoring, and selection process.

OUTCOME: After affording Petitioner leave to file an amended Petition, the ALJ dismissed the Petition due to a lack of standing when Petitioner chose not to file an amended Petition.

The ALJ concluded the Petitioner’s allegations failed to demonstrate that she could become a “qualified patient” and thus potentially eligible for a physician’s order to receive low-THC cannabis.

The ALJ noted that while the Petitioner alleges that she has an inoperable brain tumor, she does not allege that her “condition falls within the narrow parameters of the Act, that is, that Petitioner has cancer or that Petitioner’s medical condition chronically causes seizures or muscle spasms.” Moreover, even if Petitioner had sufficiently alleged that she could be a “qualified patient,” the allegations were insufficient to show that Petitioner would suffer a real or sufficiently immediate injury in fact resulting from application of the proposed rule.

However, the ALJ rejected DOH’s argument that a “qualified patient” could never have standing to challenge proposed rule 64-4.002. While noting that the proposed rule only addresses the application requirements, scoring, and selection process for dispensing organizations, the ALJ concluded that qualified patient status, “when adequately alleged, might, hypothetically, be sufficient as part of the predicate for standing to challenge rules implementing the Act.”

Editor’s Notes on Case Summary:

This case demonstrates a common situation for many Florida residents who suffer from conditions like cancer: denial of medical marijuana. The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 states that in order to qualify for the cannabis, the patient must produce symptoms of seizure and persistent muscle spasms. If the patient is younger than 18 years of age, a second physician must concur the initial physician’s determination. In this case, 4-year-old Dahlia Barnhart, who suffers from a brain tumor, failed to demonstrate that her condition produces seizures and spasms, and therefore was denied low-THC. In court documents, you must allege that you are eligible for the physician’s order.

Comments?

Do you think that 4-year-old Dahlia Barnhart qualifies for medical marijuana? Do you have a chronic condition that was denied medical marijuana? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact the Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: license, defense attorney, health law, health care attorney, health care lawyer, health investigation, medical license, Department of Health, DOH, health attorney, medical marijuana lawyer, medical cannabis, cannabis, marijuana, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, THC, medical THC, health conditions, cancer, cancer patients, brain tumor, petitions, Florida, Office of Compassionate Use, ALJ, administrative law judge, physicians, Florida marijuana, administrative hearing, petition for rule challenge

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.