Many Florida patients are happy that they live in a state where medical marijuana is available. Unfortunately, there still remains some confusion about Florida medical marijuana laws (and Florida marijuana laws, in general). In addition, there is growing concern about the state’s involvement in maintaining a registry of medical marijuana patients. One question that we’ve seen a lot is whether the database can be accessed by law enforcement. Here’s what you need to know about Florida medical marijuana laws to protect yourself.
Who Can Get Medical Marijuana in Florida?
To become a medical marijuana patient, you must have a qualifying condition that is recognized by the state’s MMJ program. Currently, the Florida Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) names the following qualifying conditions:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition.
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to the others listed.
- A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification.
If an individual falsely claims to have one of these conditions in order to receive a medical marijuana card, they can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
In many states, medical marijuana patients must be residents of the state in question. However, because of Florida’s popularity as a seasonal home, there are allowances for seasonal residents (like “snowbirds”) who have a qualifying medical condition.
Do You Have to Register With the State to Get Medical Marijuana in Florida?
To obtain medical marijuana legally, you must receive a certification from an approved physician and register with the state. Because medical marijuana is not covered by insurance, you will need to pay out-of-pocket for your certification exam, your registration card, and any marijuana products you purchase.
Patients can be removed from the registry if they are charged with a marijuana-related criminal offense.
Who Has Access to Florida’s Medical Marijuana Registry?
Signing up with the state as a marijuana patient can be unnerving since you are providing personal information to the state. It’s crucial that you understand who will be able to access your information and your medical status.
OMMU, under the Department of Health, maintains the registry, though patients, physicians, and law enforcement may access it.
According to OMMU, “Pursuant to s. 381.987, F.S., the department allows access to confidential and exempt information in the Medical Marijuana Use Registry to law enforcement agencies that are investigating a violation of law regarding marijuana in which the subject of the investigation claims an exception established under s. 381.986, F.S.
That means that law enforcement is given access to what would normally be a confidential patient registry.
For example, law enforcement can check whether an individual they’ve pulled over is actually on the registry (as a patient or a caregiver) and what products they may be in possession of. If an individual is not on the registry and lies about being on the registry, they can be charged with a crime.
According to this law, the registry can only be used by law enforcement to investigate marijuana-related offenses.
What Information Can Law Enforcement Get From the FL Marijuana Registry?
Law enforcement can access personal identifying information such as the name, address, phone number, birth date, and photo of a patient or caregiver on the registry. The only information they are not privy to is the patient’s diagnosis.
Law enforcement must undergo training before being provided access to the registry, and misuse of the registry can lead to criminal charges or disciplinary action.
Is Florida’s Medical Marijuana Registry HIPAA Compliant?
Health insurers and health providers must abide by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which means that your certifying physician is bound by HIPAA rules. However, the state is not bound by the same laws. While they don’t share diagnoses with law enforcement, OMMU does share personal identifying information.
What if I Get Stopped With Medical Marijuana in My Car?
If you have just picked up your prescription, it’s advised that you keep it in the trunk of your vehicle. Plus, you should have your patient card on you to share with officers if they pull you over. Any time you must transport your medication, have your card on you.
“A qualified patient or caregiver in possession of marijuana or a marijuana delivery device who fails or refuses to present his or her marijuana use registry identification card upon the request of a law enforcement officer commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 , unless it can be determined through the medical marijuana use registry that the person is authorized to be in possession of that marijuana or marijuana delivery device.”
Driving under the influence is illegal, even if you’re a medical marijuana patient (and it can result in losing your medical marijuana patient status).
Officers have the right to stop you and check whether you’re impaired if you’ve made unsafe or questionable driving maneuvers. Though, depending on the particulars of the stop, a skilled defense lawyer can question the legality of any search conducted in court if necessary.
Can Officers Search Your Car if They Smell Marijuana?
With decriminalization in certain municipalities and medical marijuana state-wide, many people may think that the smell of marijuana is not enough to warrant a probable cause search. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case (until courts rule otherwise), and officers who believe they smell marijuana may conduct a probable cause search. However, there are legal grounds for challenges to such searches.
Note that you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle. While officers may ask, you can always say no.
Can I Go to a Dispensary Without a Card in Florida?
In some states, you can just walk into a dispensary and use your government-issued ID to verify your age.
However, since recreational marijuana isn’t legal according to Florida state law, you cannot enter a dispensary, or as they are known in Florida, a medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC), without a specific Florida medical marijuana card.
The medical marijuana card in Florida is called the Medical Marijuana Use Registry (MMUR) card. The state refers to those with MMUR cards as patients.
Non-patients are often allowed to wait in the lobby or sitting area while the patient shops in the dispensary. This is because most MMTCs are separated into two sections, the lobby upon entrance and a separate room that houses the marijuana products.
However, this is not always the case, so you should double-check with the dispensary before you visit with non-MMUR card holders.
If you frequently visit the state of Florida but don’t live there full-time, you may feel excluded from the possibility of getting a medical marijuana card.
Fortunately, as mentioned previously, you don’t need to be a full-time Florida resident to receive a Florida medical marijuana card. Florida medical marijuana laws allow seasonal (temporary) residents to receive an MMUR card.
Seasonal Residents and Medical Marijuana Cards
Seasonal residents are those who:
- Live in Florida for at least 31 consecutive days each calendar year
- Return to the state at least once a year
- Have a temporary residence in Florida
- Are registered to vote in another state
- Pay taxes in another state
- Can provide documentation showing proof of permanent residence outside the state of Florida
You can prove that you’re a seasonal resident with these documents:
- A deed or mortgage showing ownership of a Florida property
- A lease to a Florida rental property
- A current utility bill
- Mail from a government agency within the last two months
As with full-time residents, seasonal residents must be at least 18 years or older and have a qualifying health condition diagnosed by a certified physician to qualify for a medical marijuana card.
Seasonal residents under 18 must have written consent from their parent or guardian and have a debilitating medical condition or terminal illness diagnosis.
Does Florida Allow Out-of-State Medical Marijuana Cards?
Although medical marijuana is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia, those with a medical marijuana card issued in a different state cannot use their card to enter an MMTC or buy marijuana products in Florida.
Additionally, this means that even if you have a medical marijuana card from another state, you cannot carry or use medical cannabis in Florida. If law enforcement catches you with marijuana, you will face felony charges.
So if you have a medical marijuana card from another state, don’t bring your marijuana with you to Florida. You risk running into trouble with Florida medical marijuana laws.
Instead, if you spend ample time in Florida, you should use your seasonal resident status to apply for an MMUR card. Some states even allow you to use your MMUR card to purchase cannabis products outside Florida. Always check with local laws or ask a dispensary where you’re traveling if your MMUR card is valid there.
Can You Travel With Medical Marijuana in Florida?
When discussing where and how you can and cannot travel with medical marijuana in Florida, things can become a little tricky.
Let’s start with your personal vehicle.
If you have an MMUR card, according to medical marijuana laws in FL, it’s perfectly legal to drive with marijuana in your car within the state of Florida. You can transport it from the MMTC to your home or another private property without worrying.
However, it’s advisable that when transporting medical marijuana products, you leave them in their original packaging and the glove box or trunk of the vehicle in case of a traffic stop by law enforcement. Driving with cannabis accessible is like driving with an open beer in the cup holder and is punishable by law.
Further, as discussed, always have your MMUR card on your person when transporting cannabis products.
Next, if you’re renting a car, you’ll want to ask the rental company about its policies regarding the transport of medical marijuana within the state. Each company is different, so it’s best to speak directly to a representative for up-to-date and accurate information. A violation of company policy can land you in trouble with the law and the car rental provider.
When it comes to public transportation like trains, buses, subways, and commuter trains, each transit company will have its own rules regarding the transport of medical marijuana.
For instance, Amtrak and Greyhound prohibit the transport of cannabis on all routes, even those within legal states.
If you plan on taking public transportation while in Florida, speak with a representative from each company to better understand the policies about transporting medical marijuana.
For those flying within the state of Florida, it’s best to leave your medical marijuana at home. Although TSA agents don’t actively search for medical marijuana, the law requires them to report the finding to local law enforcement if they find it.
Additionally, some major airlines, such as American Airlines, have banned the transport of marijuana, including medical marijuana, on all flights.
While you may feel tempted to travel with CBD, edibles, or low-THC cannabis products on a flight, according to a drug charge lawyer, it’s just not worth the risk. Head to a dispensary when you land to get your medical cannabis instead.
Traveling Out of Florida With Medical Marijuana
While the medical use of marijuana is legal in the state of Florida, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I substance by the federal government. Although marijuana legalization has occurred in 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
That means you must take caution if you choose to travel to another state with medical marijuana from Florida. Lawyers familiar with medical marijuana laws in FL and throughout the U.S. usually advise you not to travel between states with cannabis products, even for medical purposes.
This is especially true for air travel. If you absolutely must travel with medical marijuana products, always consult your doctor, the transit companies, and a lawyer before you do so.
Facing Drug Charges? Contact Mike G Law Now
Florida’s medical marijuana laws have led to confusion about patient rights. Marijuana remains a Schedule I substance at both the federal and state level. Patients who transport their marijuana over state lines or onto federal land can be arrested and charged with drug crimes. If you’re facing drug charges over possession of marijuana or similar offenses, call Mike G Law today. We’ve helped countless Floridians and strive to protect the rights of defendants. Don’t suffer because of confusion or law enforcement’s overreach—get help today.