When Irvin Rosenfeld runs low on his monthly allotment of federal government marijuana, the Lauderhill stock broker drives south for about an hour to Miami’s health district, the only location where he can legally pick up a circular tin packed with 300 joints.
It’s inconvenient: The pot he smokes every day to fight and treat a rare and painful bone tumor disorder is what allows him to make the drive. But like most other medical marijuana patients in Florida, the options for acquiring his medicine remain limited — for now.
As the state prepares to expand its highly restrictive medical cannabis program on Jan. 3 following the overwhelming passage of Amendment 2, dispensaries providing oils, low-THC pills, vape pens and other products are expected to pop up by the hundreds around the state. Given that federal law keeps pharmacies from distributing marijuana, dispensaries will likely be a key cog in a fledgling industry that today requires the vast majority of legal users to receive their medication by personal delivery.
But there’s uncertainty about how and when that will happen. State legislators and the Department of Health will likely set the parameters for the expanded program by June, which figures to be its own battle. But just as important as patients’ access to their medication is how — and whether — cities and counties regulate the location and operation of dispensaries, which critics fret will flood neighborhoods with “seedy elements” of the drug industry.
“Take Miami. Can you imagine if you’ve got 20 cities that do it and 10 that don’t?” said Rosenfeld, who plans to keep the rare federal prescription that gives him access to smokeable marijuana “flower” but also participate in the state’s separate, expanded program. “There’s got to be a way to implement it in a way that all the communities see the benefits.”
The process has already begun.
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