Orange County's home state, Florida, legalized access to low-THC cannabis (with a maximum of 0.8% THC and more than 10% CBD) after the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 was approved, but recreational marijuana is still illegal. The Act empowered the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to authorize the establishment of dispensing organizations to grow and dispense medical cannabis and create a registry for patients.
In compliance with state law, Orange County prohibits the home cultivation of marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes. Illegal cannabis cultivation in Florida is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years of probation, five years in prison, or a $5,000 fine. According to Section 381.986 of the Florida Statutes, only businesses licensed as Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) by the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) of the state's Department of Health can cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. MMTCs are vertically integrated and are the only establishments legally approved to grow medical marijuana in Orange County. Besides cultivation, MMTCs also process and sell their products (seed-to-sale).
The following are some of the rules governing businesses engaging in marijuana cultivation in Florida and adopted by Orange County:
Additionally, when cultivating marijuana in Orange County, MMTCs must do so in enclosed spaces. Where fumigation or treatment of plants is required, they may only use pesticides approved by the DOH after consultation with the FDACS.
Only Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) licensed by the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) of the Florida Department of Health can manufacture cannabis for medical purposes in Orange County. Cannabis manufacturing for recreational purposes is still prohibited in the state. According to Florida law, cannabis manufacturing is the production, preparation, packaging, labeling, compounding, and processing of any part of the marijuana plant.
Per Chapter 500 of the Florida Safety Act, a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center that manufactures edible cannabis in Orange County must own a permit to operate as a food establishment. According to Section 381.986 of Florida Statutes, they must abide by all the requirements and any rules adopted for food establishments in the state. MMTCs must not produce edibles in a form that appeals to children, such as a cartoon or animal shape or packaged in any form similar to products readily available for consumption (candy or any color additives). Also, MMTCs must only produce edible cannabis with a maximum of 200 milligrams of THC and ensure that a single serving portion of an edible does not exceed 10 milligrams.
Only Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) licensed by the OMMU can legally dispense medical cannabis in Orange County. MMTCs are authorized to dispense medical cannabis, low-THC cannabis, and cannabis delivery devices.
Before dispensing cannabis, MMTCs must verify that qualified patients and caregivers (if applicable) are registered in the state's Medical Marijuana Use Registry and have valid medical marijuana identification cards. They must not dispense marijuana to qualified patients under 18 years (in such cases, MMTCs may dispense marijuana to their caregivers). Also, they must ensure that the types and amounts of marijuana dispensed match the doctor certifications in the registry for such patients. Additionally, MMTCs must confirm that patients’ cannabis prescriptions have not been previously filled before dispensing to them. They must not dispense marijuana quantities exceeding 70-day supplies to qualified patients or caregivers.
In Orange County, marijuana dispensing must occur indoors. MMTCs must not display cannabis products or dispense them in the waiting areas of the dispensing premises. They must store marijuana away in secured and locked rooms or vaults. The state prohibits MMTCs from dispensing marijuana in their premises between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
In Orange County, medical marijuana delivery is legal and allowed for patients registered in the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. However, only licensed MMTCs can offer delivery services, and delivery must be done by their employees (no third party) to registered patients. When delivering medical cannabis products to registered patients in Orange County, they must be stored in locked boxes and packed in the delivery vehicles’ trunks to ensure they are only accessible to the delivery employees.
Patients and caregivers must obtain valid medical marijuana use registry (MMUR) identification cards to buy medical marijuana legally in Orange County. Eligible patients and caregivers can apply to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) for MMUR identification cards by mail or online. Online applications are usually processed faster than mail/paper applications. Before initiating an online application, an applicant must visit a Florida-licensed doctor who will add them to the state's Medical Marijuana Registry using their email address. Once added to the registry, the system will automatically send two emails to the address provided, one containing the applicant's username (usually the email) and the other, a temporary password.
To apply for an MMUR identification card online, an applicant should retrieve their login credentials from their email and log onto the Medical Use Marijuana Use Registry. However, they must create a new password after using the temporary one advised. While filling out the online form, an applicant must accurately provide all needed information and documentation, including proof of Florida residency, and pay a $75 processing fee as advised by the DOH. The MMUR has a backend connection with the demographic database of the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). The system fetches an applicant's driver's license or state identification photo and automatically adds it to their application if it matches their profile information.
A patient or caregiver opting for paper application must complete all the required fields in the following forms (whichever is applicable) while indicating that it is an initial application:
Mail/paper applications require applicants to affix their passport-style photos. Such photos must meet the guidelines outlined in Section 381.986(7)(a)2 of Florida Statutes. An applicant must also provide a copy of proof of residence and a $75 money order or check payable to the Florida Department of Health. Adult patients and caregivers who are permanent residents of Florida must include copies of their valid Florida ID cards or driver's licenses in their applications. Patients who are minors must provide current record registrations from any Florida K-12 school or copies of their birth certificates. They must also include copies of their parents' or legal guardians' identification cards (Florida ID card or driver's license). All mail/paper applications should be submitted to:
Office of Medical Marijuana Use
P.O. Box 31313
Tampa, FL 33631-3313
While it takes an average of 10 business days to approve online applications, applicants should allow an additional 5 days due to postal delivery of their applications. Applicants can check their application status through the MMUR or contact the OMMU at (808) 808-9580. The OMMU also provides application guidelines for patients and caregivers.
There is no official data to determine the economic impact of medical cannabis legalization in Orange County. However, the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) predicted that the Florida marijuana market would constitute about 7.9% of the total legal marijuana market in the U.S. The BEBR also projected that the state’s marijuana market would form 16% of the nation’s medical marijuana market and generate over $1.6 billion by 2020 in annual medical marijuana sales.
According to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), Florida has over 400 medical marijuana dispensing locations as of 13th May 2022, with 22 operating in Orange County. These locations have provided hundreds of jobs for state residents, hence, a positive economic impact.
According to the crime data reports collated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 32,697 DUI (driving under the influence) arrests were made in Florida, including Orange County, in 2017. Law enforcement also made 135 arrests for marijuana possession and 3 for marijuana sales that year. In 2018, only 1,613 DUI arrests were recorded, and no figures were reported for marijuana possession and sales. However, in 2019, there were 33,872 DUI arrests, 74 marijuana possession arrests, and 2 arrests for marijuana sales. The FBI reported 29,126 arrests for DUI in Florida in 2020, while the number of arrests for marijuana possession and marijuana sales was 16 and 1 respectively. Crime data for 2021 has not been published.
Although Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2016, the FBI crime data did not report pre-2016 crimes in Florida to ascertain the effects of legalization on crime rates in Florida, including Orange County. However, between 2017 and 2020, the total number of marijuana sales offenses was low, while the number of DUI offenses declined. The number of marijuana possession offenses also reduced significantly between those years.