In Marion County and all counties of Florida, it is legal to cultivate cannabis but only for medical use according to Statute 381.986. To be able to do so, one must acquire a license as a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC). The license is granted by the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) of the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In Marion County, there are currently 13 licensed MMTCs.
Medical cannabis allowed by Statute 381.986 is limited to low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content cannabis, defined by law to have not more than 0.8 percent THC according to weight. Cannabidiol content is allowed at even more than 10 percent according to weight, though.
Licensed MMTCs are required to cultivate medical cannabis completely indoors. The medical cannabis crop must also be kept completely separate from any other cultivated crops or plants.
All licensed growers of medical marijuana are required under Statute XXXV Chapter 581 of the Florida Plant Industry to keep a watchful eye on their medical cannabis plants, flowers, and seeds, in order to rapidly identify any form of infestation that could endanger state agriculture. As soon as they are discovered, pests should be totally eradicated through proper treatment or fumigation. However, licensed medical cannabis growers are only permitted to use pesticides that have been authorized for use on edible plants or any crops meant for human consumption by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS).
In Marion County and other Florida counties, it is legal to manufacture cannabis but Statute 381.986 limits this only to products for medical use. One has to apply to the OMMU to become a licensed MMTC to be able to legally manufacture medical cannabis products.
A licensed MMTC is required to produce medical cannabis entirely indoors. The production of medical cannabis should be carried out independently of the production of any other products. Medical cannabis producers must adhere to the relevant DOH regulations when employing gases or solvents that could be hazardous. Medical cannabis producers must abide by federal and state standards regarding the disposal of liquid and solid waste.
From every batch of medical cannabis that is processed, a licensed MMTC must take two samples which must be stored for at least nine months. A cannabis testing facility approved by the DOH will audit the MMTC within that period for its samples, testing records, and standard operating procedures.
It is the responsibility of the independent laboratory to examine the medical cannabis products for the following:
Concentrations of cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol content
Compliance with potency requirements of the DOH
Precision in content labeling
Safety for human consumption
The DOH must receive the audit findings. The DACS will then be requested by the DOH to help confirm the audit findings by validating the MMTC’s samples.
According to Statute 381.986, all medical cannabis products must be packaged by licensed MMTCs in conformity with the 1970 Poison Prevention Packaging Act of the United States. The name of the product, the percentage of THC and cannabidiol it contains, as well as the harvest and batch numbers of the medical marijuana utilized, must be printed on the label that is securely attached to each item. It must be made very clear in the warning that dispensing medical marijuana to anybody other than the specified patients is prohibited. The wording on the label cannot in any way resemble that of products marketed to children.
Every medical cannabis product item sold by a licensed MMTC must also carry an insert with the following clinical pharmacology information:
The number of doses per unit of medicinal cannabis product
The potency of each dose in the medical cannabis product
Medical applications for the cannabis product
How to administer the medical cannabis product
Contraindications to using the medicinal cannabis product
Consequences that could arise from utilizing the medical cannabis product that could be hazardous
Additional precautions and warnings
A licensed MMTC must get a food permit with the DACS's approval in order to be permitted to produce edible medicinal cannabis products, according to the Florida Food Safety Act. The prerequisites for a licensed MMTC to be able to do this are the same as those for other food enterprises. It must allow a nationally recognized organization to inspect its facilities. Additionally, it needs to become eligible by earning a certification in Food Safety Good Manufacturing Practices.
Manufacturing edible medical cannabis products that resemble candy or other foods typically served to children is prohibited. Only a 15% difference in potency is permitted across the board for all edible medical cannabis goods. A package cannot include over 20 servings with a total of 200 milligrams of THC, and no serving may exceed 10 milligrams of THC content. Each edible medical cannabis product must have a detailed list of the product's composition, an expiration date, and directions for safe storage on the container.
Only simple white opaque containers can be used to package medicinal cannabis products that are intended to be eaten or smoked. The licensed MMTC's DOH-approved logo is the sole image that may be used on the packaging. It must have a label warning consumers to keep the product out of children's reach. A notice that medical marijuana intended for smoking may include chemicals that are harmful to human health when inhaled is also required.
In Marion County and other counties in Florida, it is legal to sell cannabis by retail but this is limited to products for medical use according to Statute 381.986. One also has to become a licensed MMTC by applying with the OMMU to be able to legally dispense medical cannabis products. Licensed MMTCs are only allowed to sell medical cannabis from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and only to patients and their caregivers who are Medical Marijuana Use Registry (MMUR) identity cardholders.
It is the responsibility of licensed MMTCs to cross-reference the MMUR ID card of the patient with the online registry. By doing so, they also ascertain the type and dose of medical cannabis prescribed in the patient's doctor certification. This is required since licensed MMTCs are only permitted to dispense to each patient the specific kind of medical cannabis that is listed in the prescription, along with the dosage and delivery method. Any of the following could fall under that:
Medical marijuana flowers
Medical marijuana oil
Medical marijuana tinctures
Medical marijuana capsules or tablets
Medical marijuana suppositories
Medical marijuana vape products
Medical marijuana for smoking
Medical marijuana edibles
Medical marijuana topicals
For medical cannabis that is intended to be smoked, licensed MMTCs are only permitted to release to every patient a 35-day supply at a time, not to exceed 2.5 ounces. The dispensing cap for all other types of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products for each 70-day period is a 70-day supply at a time.
Starting August 29, 2022, restrictions have been placed on the daily amounts of THC that may be sold to patients at retail. The following are the limitations, which are still in effect today:
The maximum purchase for edibles is 60 milligrams.
150 milligrams is the maximum allowed purchase for topicals.
The maximum purchase for sublingual tinctures is 190 milligrams.
The maximum purchase for suppositories is 190 milligrams.
The maximum capsule purchase is 200 milligrams.
200 milligrams is the maximum purchase for tinctures.
The maximum purchase of nicotine per vape product is 350 milligrams.
Each medical cannabis item sold by the licensed MMTC needs to have the following information correctly labeled on it:
The licensed MMTC’s identification
The patient’s identification
The caregiver’s identification, if applicable
The certifying physician’s identification
The dosage of the medical cannabis product prescribed
Every sale must be reported to the MMUR by the licensed MMTC. Every retail sale must be recorded with the information below:
Time of purchase
The licensed MMTC’s dispensing employee identification
The purchasing patient’s identification
The purchasing caregiver’s identification, if applicable
The kind of medical marijuana or medical marijuana product that was purchased
If relevant, the medical cannabis delivery method purchased
Medical marijuana dispensaries must have high security, which is the duty of licensed MMTCs. Medical marijuana must be securely closed up in a safe or other secure facilities. A security system with CCTVs and alarms is required to protect the facility around-the-clock.
In Marion County and all Florida counties, it is legal to deliver medical cannabis according to Statute 381.986, but only licensed MMTCs are authorized to do so. They can only deliver to patients who are MMUR ID cardholders.
Each delivery of medical marijuana must be made by two workers of a licensed MMTC. Prior to the delivery leaving the facility, the licensed MMTC is required to create a medical marijuana transport manifest using the seed-to-sale tracking system. The manifest should be completed and maintained for at least three years.
The following details must be included in the medical marijuana manifest for transportation:
The name, location, and license number of the licensed MMTC
The name and signatures of the licensed MMTC’s delivery staff
The variety and quantity of medical marijuana delivered
The patient’s information, including name and location
The delivery vehicle's make, model, and license plate number
The date of delivery
The time at which the delivery departed from the licensed MMTC facility
The time the package was delivered to the patient's home
Each medical marijuana delivery must be given directly to the patient or caregiver by the licensed MMTC’s delivery staff. They are not allowed to leave the package in the mailbox or any other storage unit. A copy of the medical marijuana transport manifest must be signed by the patient or caregiver as confirmation that they received the delivery.
Permanent residents and even seasonal visitors to Marion County and other counties in Florida who have medical conditions that qualify for medical cannabis treatment according to the official DOH listing are eligible to apply with the OMMU for an MMUR ID card. To get an official diagnosis, they must consult a licensed and state-approved physician qualified for medical cannabis treatment.
Illnesses qualified for inclusion in the MMUR are the following:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
Similar medical conditions
Once a patient has qualified, the doctor will enter the name and email address of the patient in the MMUR. The doctor will also do this for the caregiver if the patient needs one. Since they are not permitted to obtain medical marijuana on their own, minors necessarily require caregivers. Additionally, certain adult patients need assistance with purchases.
The MMUR will assign each patient and caregiver an identification number after the doctor has registered them. The next step is for them to await the MMUR’s email that contains their temporary password and username. They need these to log in, update their password, and finish the process of application.
If they wish, patients can submit applications manually. To accomplish this, they must print the application form and fill it out before mailing it along with the necessary documentation to the following address:
Office of Medical Marijuana Use
PO Box 31313
Tampa, FL 33631-3313
A $75 processing charge is applied to both online and offline applications. This must be paid online for online applicants. Applications that are sent via traditional mail must not include cash. Rather, a check or money order made payable to the Florida Department of Health must be enclosed, with the memo line clearly showing the patient's ID number.
The legalization of medical cannabis has not had an impact on Marion County’s economy. That is because Statute 381.986 Section 212.08 has mandated that sales tax should not be imposed on the sales of medical cannabis, medical cannabis products, and medical cannabis delivery devices.
The high number of medical cannabis sales would have been profitable for the county and the state if a sales tax had been applied. According to the OMMU's sales statement for the period of July 6 to 13, 2018, licensed MMTCs sold 29,470,708 mg of medical cannabis in that time frame alone. From July 29 to August 4, 2022, 243,358,822 mg of medical cannabis was sold by licensed MMTCs in a week’s time.
Statute 381.986 legalized medical cannabis in 2017 in Florida. On the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office reports that in that year, there were 690 arrests for drug abuse violations. This increased to 1,121 in 2020.
DUI arrests, on the other hand, decreased in Marion County from 199 in 2017 to 89 in 2020 according to the Florida Highway Patrol.