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Low-THC Medical Cannabis

On June 16, 2015, Governor Scott signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 found in Chapter 381.986, Florida Statutes into law. Under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, ordering order low-tetrahydrocannabinol cannabis by doctors licensed under Chapter 458 and Chapter 459 of Florida Statutes for their qualified patients beginning on January 1, 2015.

The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 provides that low-THC cannabis can only be ordered by physicians licensed under Chapter 458 or Chapter 459 of Florida Statutes are authorized to provide low THC cannabis for their patients under the Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 for use by a patient.

Under the statute, patients are not allowed to grow their own low-THC cannabis. Other misdemeanor criminal penalties apply to the use, administration, ordering and dispensing of low-THC marijuana. These criminal offenses can involve patients, doctors or dispensaries.

The criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL, represent clients charged with a host of marijuana crimes under Florida Statute Section 381.986(3)(c). We are also experienced in representing physicians and other health care professionals charged with a variety of felony and misdemeanor offenses throughout Tampa and the surrounding areas in the Tampa Bay area. 

Attorney for Medical Marijuana Crimes in Tampa, Florida

Under Florida Statute Section 381.986(3)(c), a patient who fraudulently represents that he or she has cancer, a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, or a terminal condition to a physician for the purpose of being ordered low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, or a cannabis delivery device by such physician commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Under Florida Statute Section 381.986(3)(d), even an eligible patient or their legal representative can be chaged with a crime for using or administering medical cannabis in plain view of or in a place open to the general public, on the grounds of a school, or in a school bus, vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat. The crimes for using medical marijuana in plain view are charged as a first degree misdemeanor.

Under Florida Statute Section 381.986(3)(a), a physician can be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine if the physician orders low-THC cannabis for a patient without a reasonable belief that the patient is suffering from:

  1. Cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or sever and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis; or
  2. Symptoms of cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be alleviated with low-THC cannabis.

Under Florida Statute Section 381.986(3)(b), a physician commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if the physician orders medical cannabis for a patient without a reasonable belief that the patient has a terminal condition as defined in s. 499.0295.

Under Florida Statute Section 381.986(3)(e), a physician who orders low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, or a cannabis delivery device and receives compensation from a dispensing organization related to the ordering of low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, or a cannabis delivery device is subject to disciplinary action under the applicable practice act and s. 456.072(1).


Definitions for the Low-THC Cannabis Statute

Section 381.986, Florida Statutes, contains the following definitions related to low-THC Cannabis:

  • "Low-THC Cannabis" is defined as a plant of the genus Cannabis, the dried flowers of which contain 0.8 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol and more than 10 percent cannabidiol weight for weight; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; or any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant or its seeds or resin that is dispensed only from a dispensing organization.
  • "Dispensing Organization" means an organization approved by the Florida Department of Health to cultivate, process, and dispense low-THC cannabis pursuant to section 456.60 F.S.
  • "Medical Use" for purposes of the low THC medical marijuana statute is defined as the administration of the ordered amount of low-THC cannabis. The term does not include the possession, use or administration by smoking. The term also does not include the transfer of low-THC cannabis to a person other than the qualified patient for whom it was ordered or the qualified patient’s legal representative on behalf of the qualified patient.
  • "Qualified Patient" is a Florida resident with symptoms of cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically products symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms who has been added to the Compassionate Use Registry by a physician licensed under Chapter 458 or Chapter 459 to receive low-THC cannabis from a dispensing organization.
  • The term "Smoking" means burning or igniting a substance and inhaling the smoke. Smoking does not include the use of a vaporizer.

Requirements for Obtaining Low-THC Cannabis

To qualify for low THC marijuana under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 the following the requirements apply:

  • the patient must be a permanent Florida resident;
  • if a patient is under the age of 18, a second physician must agree with the determination of need for the patient;
  • the patient must suffer from cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms; or symptoms of the same;
  • other treatments must have been tried without success;
  • the ordering physician must determine the risks of using low-THC cannabis are reasonable in light of the benefit to the patient;
  • the ordering physician must register the patient in the Compassionate Use Registry;
  • the ordering physician must maintain a patient treatment plan which outlines the dose, route of administration, planned duration, monitoring of the patient’s illness, and tolerance of the low- THC cannabis, and submit the plan to the University of Florida, College of Pharmacy, on a quarterly basis for research purposes.

Requirements for the Low-THC Ordering Physician

The ordering physician must successfully complete an 8-hour course offered by either the Florida Medical Association or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. The course encompasses the clinical indications for the appropriate use of low-THC cannabis, the appropriate delivery mechanisms, the contraindications for such use, as well as the relevant state and federal laws governing the ordering, dispensing, and possessing of this substance. The physician must successfully pass an examination upon completion of the course.


Five Marijuana DIspensing Organizations in Florida

The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 allows the Florida Department of Health to approve up to five dispensing organizations in Florida. The dispensing organizations will be located in specified geographic regions throughout the state including:

  • northwest Florida;
  • northeast Florida;
  • central Florida;
  • southeast Florida, and
  • southwest Florida.

The Florida Department of Health will develop an application form and determine the fees necessary, both initially and at biennial renewal, to cover the costs of administering The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.


Requirements for Dispensing Organizations in Florida

Dispensing organizations must meet stringent requirements including:

  • Must have been in operation as a registered nursery in this state for at least 30 continuous years.
  • Must have the ability to provide appropriate infrastructure and personnel, and maintain accountability for all raw materials, finished product and byproducts, in order to prevent unlawful access to these substances.
  • Must have a valid certificate of registration from the Florida Department of Agriculture that allows cultivation of more than 400,000 plants.
  • Must meet specific financial requirements.
  • All owners and managers must be fingerprinted and pass a level 2 background check. vi. Must employ a medical director licensed under Chapter 458 or 459, Florida Statutes, to supervise dispensing activities.

The financial requirements for a dispensing organization include showing the financial ability to maintain operations for the duration of the two-year approval cycle. Upon approval, dispensing organizations must post a $5 million performance bond.


Additional Resources

Low-THC and Medical Cannabis - Visit the website of the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to learn more about the difference between low-THC cananbis and medical cannabis. Low-THC products do not produce the euphoric properties of full-potency cannabis. In other words, with low-THC cannabis, the patient does not experiencing the “high” commonly associated with cannabis. To qualify as low THC, the flowers, seeds, resin, and any other product derived from the cannabis plant must contain 0.8 percent or less of THC and more than 10 percent of cannabidiol (CBD) weight for weight. Also find information about medical marijuana with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


Finding an Attorney for Medical Marijuana Crimes

The penalties that apply to the use of low-THC and medical cannabis are explained in Florida Statute Section 381.986(3) which sets out new misdemeanor offenses that apply to physicians, patients and dispensing organizations.

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm are experienced in representing physicians for a range of criminal offenses including crimes involving recommending or ordering medical marijuana. Don't delay, contact a criminal defense attorney in Tampa, FL, today.


This article was last updated on Friday, May 5, 2017.