Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is demanding that the state reverse its sudden decision to impose arbitrary THC and purchase limits on medical cannabis patients.
At the end of August, the state Department of Health (DOH) issued an emergency rule that prohibits all patients from purchasing more than 24,500 mg of THC over a 70-day period. The rule also blocks registered doctors from issuing “a physician certification for more than three 70-day supply limits of marijuana or more than six 35-day supply limits of marijuana in a form for smoking.” The existing regulations already impose a cap of 2.5 ounces of smokable bud for each 35-day period, so this further restricts the amount of medicine that patients can access at any given time.
Fried, who worked as a cannabis lobbyist before becoming the state's director of agriculture, released a statement condemning the health department's decision. “The rule change is unnecessary, its implementation poorly notified, and its impacts extremely harmful, with hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida no longer able to access their medicine in the quantities they need for effective treatment as determined by their doctors,” she said.
Generally, the state health department announces major rule changes well in advance, allowing physicians and patients a chance to comment on the decision. In this case, the new rules went into effect three days after they were announced. At a recent press conference, Fried called this decision a deliberate “act of cruelty” specifically designed to block patients from offering their input, Florida Politics reports. “Instead of moving this program forward, [the DOH] have continued their assault on patient rights.”
Fried also wrote a letter to state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo arguing that “unveiling a rule cutting the allowable preparations and extracts dosages by 69.4 percent with less than three days’ notice is not just thoughtless, it’s irresponsible. It has caused chaos, confusion, and rightful panic among patients and providers.”
These limits override “the professional judgment of doctors and [endanger] the health of patients,” she continued. “Many patients require the ability to purchase a higher dosage in multiple forms in order to test combinations and find the best balance to treat their particular condition in consultation with their doctor. The state has no business inserting itself into nuanced decisions being made between patients and their health care providers.”
The commissioner pointed out that local politicians have already made dozens of attempts to impose “arbitrary and harmful caps within the state’s medical cannabis program, which failed miserably because it is not in the interest of protecting patients’ health.” Lawmakers originally amended the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law to ban smokable flower, but a state court eventually ruled that the ban was unconstitutional. Other legislative attempts to impose arbitrary caps and restrictions have failed, so the state DOH stepped up with its own plan to enforce illogical limits.
Not only will these new patient caps block patients' access to their medicine, they are likely to seriously damage the health of Florida's medical marijuana industry as a whole. In 2020, the first full year that smokable flower was available, the Sunshine State sold $1.2 billion worth of weed – making it the fourth-largest legal weed market in the entire US. This July, legal dispensaries moved nearly $200 million worth of medicine, outselling every adult-use state except California and Michigan.