TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (July 26, 2016) – Medical marijuana will become available in Florida for the first time next week. This represents yet another step forward in thwarting federal prohibition in effect.
Trulieve announced Wednesday that it received final approval from the Florida Department of Health to begin selling a low-THC strain of medical marijuana used to treat children with severe epileptic seizures and cancer. The state legislature legalized this form of medical cannabis in 2014. Cannabis with higher levels of THC for treatment of terminally ill patients will become available in August, according to the company. Earlier this year, the Florida legislature expanded its 2015 “Right to Try” law by making medicinal cannabis available to these patients.
Qualifying patients state-wide will be able to obtain medicinal cannabis by delivery. The company will also open a dispensary in Tallahassee next week.
“We are happy to announce that we have passed all inspections — from growing and processing to dispensing — and are the very first medical cannabis provider in the state to receive these formal authorizations,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said in a statement. “And we are most excited to get this much anticipated medicine to the patients of Florida.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, other companies will release their first products in the near-future. Alpha/Surterra, based in Tampa and Tallahassee, reportedly completed its first harvest last week.
Under current Florida law, only a handful of patients can access medical marijuana. That could change after November. Florida voters will consider a constitutional amendment to legalize full-strength medicinal cannabis for patients suffering from a wide range of illnesses. The measure must pass by a 60 percent margin. Some polls show as many as 80 percent of Floridians favor legalizing medical marijuana.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Although currently limited in scope, Florida’s medical marijuana program removes one small layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.
Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
While Florida law does not alter federal law, it takes a step toward blocking in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing state prohibition, Florida essentially sweeps away a small part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
Florida joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 24 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically stopping the ban.
“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.