This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Marijuana legalization, medicalization, and decriminalization have been the subject of fierce debate at the local, national, and even international level. Let’s take a look at the history and facts around marijuana clinic laws in Boca Raton.
In Florida, a super-majority of over 71% of voters approved Amendment 2 in 2016, greatly expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. Here in Boca, where 76% of voters were in favor of Amendment 2, the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries goes back to at least 2014. The Planning and Zoning Board voted each year in favor of yearlong marijuana clinic moratoriums until 2017, when the ban was voted down by a 4-2 margin. The ordinance then moved its way to the City Council, where after being debated by council members it essentially turned into another yearlong moratorium based on ongoing concerns and a lack of information.
Although the issue is not set to come up again until at least September, it seemed appropriate to begin that discussion now given the rapidly changing and incredible amount of information available on the topic.
Reviewing policy and legislative changes at the international and national level
Most notably, and at the international level, Canada recently legalized marijuana for recreational use, making it only the second country in the world to do so after Uruguay. The new legislation will go into effect in October, at which point it will be legal for anyone over 18 to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana. Adults will be allowed to grow up to four plants, and provinces will retain the right to set their own system of licensing and regulation. According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the legislative changes are designed to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, and keep marijuana profits away from organized crime. Here in the United States, Oklahoma just became the 30th state (in addition to D.C.) to approve medical marijuana. At least nine states (and D.C.) have approved recreational use, with Vermont being the most recent addition. Based on upcoming ballot measures for the November 2018 elections (and pending signatures), there appear to be nearly a half-dozen states considering medical or recreational marijuana use, including Michigan, Utah, Arizona, Missouri, and Nebraska.
Legislative changes here in Florida and what interested residents can do moving forward.
Here in Florida, the last year has seen important changes, or in some cases a lack thereof, to medical marijuana policy. To be clear, this is by no means an exhaustive list of updates, and I encourage all readers to continue to verify these policies, which can change before one even gets the opportunity to discuss them. Those concessions aside, some of the most important legislative changes/lawsuits working their way through the courts relate to Florida residents’ ability to grow their own marijuana and consume it through smoking. In the case of the former, Tampa resident Joe Redner has been fighting for the right to grow his own plants, which his state-certified doctor has prescribed to him for his Stage 4 lung cancer. Although Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled in favor or Mr. Redner, the ruling does not extend to other patients, and to the best of my knowledge, the Florida Department of Health is still currently appealing the decision.
In the case of the latter, one of the arguably more questionable constraints on Florida’s current medical marijuana industry is that the medicine cannot be administered through its most obvious and prolifically used method, smoking, but instead only through edibles, concentrates, and similar products. Lawsuits have attempted to challenge this rule. Most recently, Judge Karen Gievers issues a 22-page Order and Final Judgment, finding that the current statute unconstitutionally restricts protected rights and that the prohibition against the use of smokeable marijuana is invalid and unenforceable. Despite this crucial advancement, the Florida Department of Health is currently appealing the decision, which will likely hold it up in the courts for some time. Although not without barriers, medical marijuana in Florida is likely to see rapid expansion over the next few years, especially if pro-marijuana reform politicians – who span the political spectrum – win in the upcoming elections.
Given the arguably unstoppable progression of marijuana reform, is it time to reevaluate medical marijuana dispensaries in Boca?
Boca Raton will likely debate the issue of marijuana dispensaries in the city around late September or early October. Council Members have expressed concerns including state preemption, crime, and other issues, which I hope to address directly in subsequent articles as the moratorium expiration approaches. If you are interested in learning more about the industry or getting involved, I would encourage readers to attend local networking events, conferences, and presentations, which occur frequently and across the state. Most importantly, the City Council needs to hear from the voices of Boca residents. Although 76% of Boca residents voted in favor of Amendment 2, the council will require more direct resident input to be fully convinced that dispensaries are appropriate for Boca.
To The Soon to be Dr. Sevell: The radio commercials running on WIOD touting the Miracle Leaf Dispensary in Miami have all the carnival barker qualities of the brainless Al Packer Ford twins hawking automobiles to common man. Inviting potential users to ‘c’mon down’ to be evaluated by their doctors and get their authorization on cards on the spet is not exactly what I expected when I voted for the law. If this is going to be the mindset with respect to the use of marijuana as a therapeutic agent I have a serious issue with it. We need the same intellectual approach which would be used to advocate the use any prescription item present or future, and patient’s treating physician of record ONLY should be at the helm, evaluating, counseling, and authorizing the dispensing and use of same. Presently, it appears to be a ‘pot-head’ rock concert atmsophere which this now retired health care professional trained in Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain management, rejects outright.
Hi Dr. Rosenstock, thanks for the comment. Also, the comments on the blog sometimes take a few minutes to post so if you don’t immediately see it, just wait a few minutes or contact us if there is some issue. Anyways, tech issues aside, there is no doubt going to be some crass commercialism accompanying this multibillion-dollar industry as it unfolds and matures across the state. Without going down the rabbit hole, I’ll say that I definitely agree that things need to be carefully, and intelligently, regulated. Anything less is going to take away from medical patients who could legitimately benefit. To best of my knowledge, currently, the system is not set up so you can get a card on the spot. You must wait at least 30 days and most people report much longer wait times. Additionally, the law is currently set up such that a patient can only buy what was prescribed by their doctor – they cannot just go into a dispensary and order whatever they want carte blanche. Indeed, there will be irresponsible doctors, but I would argue that we should focus our frustration on making our legislators create better laws and regulations rather than on the plant itself, which many would argue has undeniable benefits for patients. All that aside, the reality is that illicit marijuana is already being consumed all over Florida. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, no doubt. What kinds of regulations would you suggest? For example, I think your idea of using the physician on record is great, but what if that physician is not yet authorized or unwilling to write that prescription?
In answer to your question put: If a physician is not yet authorized or unwilling to write that prescription then the patient should be offered a choice of authorized, participating physicians to continue the care and management of the condition for which the patient is being prescribed the therapy. If referred to a physician who will write for the medication, that physician must agree to be a co-therapist in the care plan along with the physician not yet authorized to write. It’s no different than moving from New York to Florida and to continue to being cared and managed for age-related macular degeneration, as example. We are dealing with a unique situation in which a substance having a long history of use as an intoxicant, and deemed unlawful to possess in any manner, shape or form, for so many years, is now discovered to possess therapeutic potential given our understanding of the science presently. It does not mean that it’s abuse potential should now be ignored or totally disregarded. Now as legally permissable recreational substance it will likely find its own level of misuse and abuse within the human condition and society already has laws, or will find it necesaary to make law to deal with the infractions.
Your concerns are valid, but speak more about your displeasure at the lack of regulation on advertisement of medical marijuana than the use of it as a medical product.
We could easily see and hear advertisements for Xanax or Valium (Xanax is now legal!! Need to relax after a hard day? Ask your doctor on how you can get on Xanax and come hang out at Club Space!!), and in a sense, we do. You can’t turn on a TV without hearing advertisements for products for urinary incontinence, toe fungus treatments, erectile disfunction, et cetera.
Please voice your displeasure at the lack of regulation in advertisement (seriously, those ads are ridiculous), but also remember that for those of us whose family members are MMJ patients, the availablilty of this medicine has been a godsend.
Also, if you truly want the silly ads to go away, lobby the federal government to recategorize cannabis from schedule 1. Without FDA approval and tons of research that is currently banned by the federal governemnt, patients will have to continue to go to “dispensaries” instead of pharmacies, and shady medical clinics will continue to advertise cannabis as entertainment to the rock and roll crowd.
I have no objections to the issues you raise. I suggest that it might be up to the states which have collectively legalized cannabis for medical and/or personal use to move Congress to have the substance re-classified for a variety of reasons including making it possible for research to investigate it more thoroughly. Who knows what such research may reveal? At the present time and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, current findings still point to unfavorable outcomes in the chronic recreational use of marijuana. As to advertising, IMHO, those who are presently operating dispensaries would have been the ‘head shop’ operators of my generation 50 years ago. I doubt that they view their ‘product’ with the science-minded viewpoint of a pharmacist, even if they’re dispensing it for medical reasons. If the consumer base in these establishments are mixed, the ‘stoners’ will be with the ‘sufferers’ in a ‘totally cool, dude’ environment. The ‘Spicolis’ will rule. Given that, the state will have to look to local and Federal broadcast standards as to how radio and TV commercial content is regulated. Policies specfic to this market may be required as currently exists for tobacco and alcohol.
Naturally I’m quite interested in the topic of how MMJ was rolled out in Florida and I’ve kept a close eye on how the DoH rolled out the program. One of the criticisms from the industry (and the rollout is a work in progress) was the lack of guidance on how to test for pesticide. The people who are running the dispensaries take the science of their product extremely seriously, and are pushing the DoH to do the same.
Where you do get some bad actors is on the doctor side, which makes sense – what sort of good doctor would risk their career by “recommending” MMJ? Prescribing MMJ is a federal crime, so you get a bunch of doctors who sometimes are already at the bottom of the barrel.
If you’re interested in learning more, Broward has an advisory panel that discusses the issues you raised (among other things):
If you’re interested in the science portion of the industry, this event is coming up in Boca:
Nice talking to you, even though this is a confusing format 🙂
And happy independence day!
I wrote a lengthy comment. What happened to it?
Doctor: Is the comment below the comment you are referring too? If not, please resubmit as I do not see it in the queue for publishing. Thank you.
Al Zucaro, Publisher
I don’t see it either. I’m sorry if you wrote out a comment and it didn’t get saved on our end. Our site most likely didn’t receive it, because otherwise it would have made some kind of record of it. Please don’t let this dissuade you from making other comments.
I moved here from California, I saw firsthand what a joke they made out of their “medical” marijuana laws. Now all the stoners want to turn Florida into another Commiefornia. No thanks!
What kinds of regulations would you recommend to stop it from being a “joke”? I think a lot of patients who legitimately benefit from marijuana would resent being called “stoners,” especially given how many people use CDB products, which while derived from the same plant, have absolutely no THC or “high” effect. I think average adults who use marijuana responsibly would probably take issue with that assessment too. 71% of Florida voters voted in favor of this, and marijuana politics truly span the political spectrum from Roger Stone to Willy Nelson. I’m not sure we’re slippery sliding in Commiorida, but I will say that if we learn anything from California, it’s that if we are going to do this thing, maybe we should just skip the “joke” stages.
Thank you Eric, now you’ve shown your true colors. You want to skip the “medical” joke stage all together and go right to full legalization for everyone and hand out candy cannabis to kids. It’s a shame that Mr. Zucaro has turned Boca Watch into the New Times for SJW’s.
Support for marijuana reform isn’t just a “SJW” or young person or liberal or snowflake or whatever label you want to call it issue. The support for this issue spans the political, age, and religious spectrums. That’s just a fact. I’m trying to show that my true colors are honesty and sincerity so I certainly wasn’t going to lie you about where I stand. I am absolutely convinced based on the evidence that I’ve seen that legalizing and regulating marijuana will actually reduce drug problems and keep marijuana AWAY from kids. Let me ask you this: If you saw consistent evidence that marijuana legalization does just those things, would you be willing to change your opinion? I think we both want the same thing! Also, I think criticising Al or the platform for letting me have a voice is unfair. There are literally almost 1000 posts on this site and I have done about 10. I work with a diverse group of people with wildly different opinions than my own and I am constantly learning from them. Would you rather young people not participate in the discussion at all?
I do resent being called an “SJW” but I certainly didn’t expect someone to get triggered at someone exercising their free speech.
That’s a pretty brutal labeling: the New Times for “SJWs”. I have to admit that I am personally triggered by our efforts here being labeled as such. I’m about to go kick some trash cans and stuff.
But before I go out and “fash the trash” I will chime in about what I saw out in California that I thought was really horrible about the whole cannabis scene there. I went out there in last year, before Proposition 64 legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana went into effect. To buy pot legally a medical marijuana card was required. That’s why there were so many billboards dedicated to “pot doctors” who did nothing but give folks pot cards so they could buy weed. It was so blatant, so in-your-face, around every corner. How could these doctors, trained medical pros who could be fighting all sorts of other problems, be part of such a large industry with so much profit where they can afford so many billboards. Billboards aren’t cheap – like a couple thou easy per month. Plus you have to pay for the graphic and production. Yeow!
It made me troubled for all the Cali stoners out there: the majority of them are lying, engaging in a for-profit deception with the pot doctors, just so they can get high. So they have to get low and be liars in order to get high. It’s so messed up that the law, the State of California, is set up to encourage the folks to lie like that. Just for pot.
So I don’t personally like this period we’re in, this “medical” period. It’s probably going to be the same here eventually, with people being encouraged to go to special pot doctors to get pot cards, lying about their maladies in order to get high. I’d rather it goes straight to recreational. That way we’d get more tourist dollars and less would be spent on unnecessary incarceration.
Why don’t you write an article about why weed is degenerate or something EVELYN? We’d publish it. Not everyone has to agree, but we can all at least listen.
Hahaha are you posting this from your hospice bed? We dont live in the 30’s anymore cats out of the bag Reefer Madness was the biggest piece of propaganda in American history maybe even ever. Reefer, marijuana, pot, weed, whatever you want to call it should not be regulated by the government. Grownups do not need to be told by other grownups what they are allowed or not allowed to consume. Home of the free and the brave? Or home of the miss guided and confused? You can decide. We live in 2018 do your homework on Cannabis there is too much information out there for you to make such a low I.Q. statement.
I do not see any comment from Mr Zucaro on this subject, so your uncalled for inference is obviously unkind and way off base. FYI, I do not know Eric Sevell or Mr. Zucaro, but do want to thank Boca Watch for having the opportunity for all residents to weigh in on how we feel about a dispensary in our city. Again, it is a legitimate legal drug that is very helpful for many issues, and I feel a local dispensary should be available to those with a legal prescription. I would rather have a marijuana dispensary nearby than a 7-11.
There has been and will be weed in every city you ever live in legal or not, just remember that
Agree! And better that it is legal so we are making money on taxes rather than spending money on trying to stop it and prosecute people for something that is
less harmful than alcohol.
I support Medical Marijuana as it is a very useful drug for many maladies. My mother was suffering prior to her death at the very young age of 44, from cancer and the horrible effects of chemotherapy. It really did help her nausea. My father, recently passed on 5/5/18, had Parkinson’s and we obtained medical marijuana drops for him and it helped. (He never smoked in his life and would not have wanted to smoke it) Lets face facts. It is a good remedy for a lot of medical issues, and is now legally prescribed in FL. We should make this available locally. It is no different than going to CVS for opioids. In fact, it is not addictive as are opioids. It is a legal drug, and if one day I need to obtain a prescription, I would not want to have to drive to Lake Worth to fill it. I feel a marijuana dispensary would be less dangerous near my home than a 7-11.
Great piece, Eric. I look forward to watching this unfold and learning more about the local restrictions regarding the issue.
I had written a lengthy response to Cristina and it was deemed repetitive. It was not. It was definitely to her ponts. I have not yet retained the wisdom of ‘copying and saving’ what I write for contingencies. This will change.
Hi again Dr. Rosenstock, I think your comment in response to Cristina posted, it’s just actually nested under your conversation rather than at the bottom of the comment list. If you scroll up, you should see it. I definitely do. We really appreciate your comments.
Yes, thank you. I looked for it about 30 minutes after I posted. Then I posted the inquiry and all of a sudden my comment appeared.