Medical marijuana supporters and activists are looking ahead to 2017 when medical pot will be expanded in Florida, but the full legalization and implementation of the drug may still be months away.
Patients who qualify for the drug should essentially be able to begin receiving their marijuana medication next week.
The future of medical pot greatly expanded last month when 71 percent of voters approved Amendment 2.
The amendment says anyone who has one of the debilitating illnesses listed in the amendment language, like HIV and cancer, can begin receiving medical pot January 3.
While the amendment language might seem straightforward, the state legislature and the Florida Department of Health still have six months to revise the current dispensing rules and have up to nine months to implement those rules, which could throw a wrench into the state's newest prescription drug.
State lawmakers ruled to allow non-smokable, low THC dosages of medical marijuana during the 2014 legislative session -- a provision which was expanded earlier this year to allow patients to receive higher doses of the drug.
Distribution of the drug began during the summer. Seven dispensaries are currently authorized to dole out the drug in Florida.
Medical marijuana is currently available in oils, drops, tinctures and sprays which cost around $30 to $300 for a 45-day supply.
The road to dispensing medical marijuana is already full of roadblocks, particularly from cities and local governments trying to fight off the medical pot business.
Cities and counties around the state have expressed fears over medical pot shops popping up in commercial zones and school zones, though it is uncertain just how many dispensaries will be built statewide.
Pasco and Manatee Counties have both said they want bans on the drug and other counties, like Hillsborough, already have a ban in place until April.
Local governments are also cracking down on the drug. Panama City Beach officials have said they want an all-out ban of growing, cultivation and dispensing of the drug for eight months while city and county staff studied the activities.
Local officials said the so-called "moratorium" on medical marijuana activities would give local and state lawmakers the chance to sort out what the future of medical marijuana would look like in Florida.
"I suggest that we consider a moratorium on this until (the) state settles down on what their (laws) will be and the county does the same so we don't do something and have to undo it three or four times," Panama City Beach Councilman John Reichard told the News-Herald.
On top of local pushback, supporters of the drug are worried about federal pushback. President Barack Obama's administration has deferred the legality of the drug to the states but it is uncertain whether President-elect Donald Trump's administration would do the same.
From a business perspective, is predicted to be incredibly lucrative for the Sunshine State. A New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research industry report found Florida will make a whopping $1.6 billion in medical marijuana sales within the next three years.
Florida's medical marijuana industry will grow by 140 percent by 2020.
"Florida has the potential to be one of the largest medical markets in the country," said New Frontier Data Founder and CEO Giadha DeCarcer. "The state is home to the nation's largest percentage of people 65 and older, a demographic for whom chronic pain and catastrophic illnesses are commonplace and expensive to treat. Amendment 2 gives this large patient pool access to legal cannabis as an alternative therapy to their diverse medical needs."
Florida's legislative session begins in March.
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