Florida’s medical marijuana initiative could take liability away from providers | Behavioral Healthcare Executive Skip to content Skip to navigation

Florida’s medical marijuana initiative could take liability away from providers

October 10, 2014
by Julia Brown
| Reprints

Update: As of early Wednesday, Nov. 5, Amendment 2 failed to gain the 60 percent approval required for constitutional amendments in the state. With nearly all precincts reporting, the amendment fell just shy with a 57 percent approval.

Industry experts are speaking out about the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative (Amendment 2 on the November state ballot) and encouraging increased public education and due diligence as Election Day draws near.

Upon voter approval, the initiated constitutional amendment would legalize medical marijuana, and its vague wording could leave negligent providers of the drug without liability in the result of adverse effects, opponents of the amendment say.

Suncoast Rehabilitation Center, a drug treatment facility that provides long-term residential care in Spring Hill, Florida, maintains that the amendment is an attempt to fast track the legalization of recreational marijuana in Florida, and urges educated voting.

Legalization concerns:

  • The amendment would not require a doctor’s prescription for a person to obtain marijuana because it would violate federal law. Instead, only a doctor’s recommendation would be needed; and
  • Everyone within the marijuana distribution chain would be granted full civil and criminal immunity and could not be held liable if something were to happen, which would erase patient protections set in place by current checks and balances.

Suncoast executive director Tammy Strickling says that these technicalities allow marijuana to be recommended at all ages for any type of pain or discomfort.

“There is no age restriction in the amendment, meaning that teens and children will be able to legally purchase [marijuana] without their parents’ consent,” she says. “People of any age can be labeled a ‘qualifying patient’, which simply means that they have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition or some other condition and any caregiver can assist the child or teen in getting and using the drug.”

As a state, Florida has not been able to ensure that the only people who have access to drugs are those who need them, Strickling says, and legalizing medical marijuana would create the same sceanrio. The key to stemming the rise of a potential drug epidemic, she says, is by limiting access.

According to Suncoast, 90% of its clients tried marijuana before using other drugs, and another 60% list marijuana as being used with another drug of choice.

Additionally, today’s marijuana has extremely high THC levels, the facility points out. Marijuana sold in shops has tested at levels in the mid-20% range, compared to 40 years ago, when the average THC potency was 1.37%.

In order to help individuals in need, as well as protect public health and safety, Suncoast executives recommend treating patients with non-psychoactive substances instead.