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 in order 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 get 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 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 information to the state. It’s crucial that you understand who will be able to access your personal 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 a 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 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 your 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.
Facing Drug Charges? Contact Mike G Law Now
Florida medical marijuana laws have led to confusion about patient rights and marijuana laws. 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.