Florida lawmakers will face a push in 2022 for virtual renewal of medical marijuana certificates, depending on how the state’s new cannabis industry develops. The change is needed to update outdated regulations and cut down on some red tape while also preventing patients from being charged fees that could add up quickly if they renew their cards annually rather than just twice a year.
The “what is a 420 doctor” is a term that was coined in California to describe an individual who has been approved by the state of California to recommend cannabis for medical use.
Despite making pandemic-era innovations like “beer to go” permanent, Florida legislators have yet to move to formalize a recently expired regulation that allowed medicinal marijuana users to renew their certificates online.
With almost 600,000 people in the state now obliged to see a doctor in person for recertification, pressure on the legislature to act during the 2022 regular session is growing.
An executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the outset of the epidemic established a protocol enabling telemedicine to be utilized for medicinal marijuana patient recertification. The decree was set to expire on June 26, almost two months after the normal parliamentary session ended.
Measures to extend telemedicine were explored, but there was no plan to make the medicinal marijuana telemedicine program permanent.
“We’ve gotten used to this virtual world that we live in, and a lot of these things make things simpler,” said Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, a lobbying organization working to make marijuana more accessible.
“Having two children under the age of four, I’ve often wondered how people manage to take their children to the doctor, do errands, and do anything self-care or for their children during a nine-to-five workday.”
The number of medicinal marijuana patients in Florida has increased by more than 80% since the executive order was issued. Some industry supporters credit virtual recertification, which enabled patients to buy cannabis products at state-licensed shops without having to visit their doctor once every seven months, for the increase.
There are signs that legislators are paying attention. A bipartisan chorus of legislators supported telemedicine expansion during this year’s session, and new House legislation would enable a variety of restricted drugs to be administered remotely.
“What’s good about COVID? Well, it’s forced us to do something with telehealth and realize this is how you reach a much broader population over time, much more conveniently,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, remarked as the Senate Health Policy Committee signed off on expansion legislation in February.
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