The cultivation and use of Cannabis Sativa, also known as marijuana in the United States have been in existence since the early 17th century. During this period and all the way to around 1970, the plant was recognized for its medicinal purpose (McKenna, 2014). Unfortunately, in 1970, the Federal government enacted the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act classifying marijuana under Schedule I controlled substance. The move categorized the plant under drugs with high potential for abuse and illegal for physicians to prescribe it to patients. However, and after some rigorous scientific research doctors in the united States have recommended the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for the treatment of chronic pain and other conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, ALS, and multiple sclerosis among other conditions. While prescribing or dispensing marijuana is illegal under the federal law, various states such as Florida have proposed and passed policies allowing for the use of the drug in the treatment of the different conditions.
SB 8-A — Medical Use of Marijuana
On June 9, 2017, the Florida Legislature passed the SB 8A and SB 6A in a bid to implement Article X of section 29 of the Constitution. The key provisions in the new Marijuana medical use law include several guidelines to ensure the safety use of marijuana in the health care settings (Florida Senate, 2017). Under the legislation, patients who are residents in Florida can receive marijuana treatment for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, ALS, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, Chrohn’s condition, and Parkinson’s disease. The bill also allows the use of marijuana for chronic nonmalignant pain, originating from a qualifying medical condition and goes beyond the usual medical condition. In this context, a physician must diagnose a patient with a qualifying condition and ascertain that the medical use of marijuana outweighs the potential risks to the patient. Similarly, it allows the use of marijuana for patients with a terminal condition. In addition to the above, physicians must obtain informed written consent from the patient for medical use of marijuana. Along with that, the bill eliminates the 90-day waiting period before a qualified physician may register a patient for low-THC medical marijuana.
Apart from the provisions relating to the patients, the bill also sets some provisions for qualified physicians administering marijuana. Physicians must receive a two-hour course and pass an exam administered by the Florida Medical Association or the Osteopathic Medical Association in order to be allowed to diagnose and prescribe marijuana to patients. The legislation also paves the way for an additional ten medical marijuana treatment centers on top of the seven that are already operating. Nonetheless, among the provisions, the bill does not allow smoking marijuana despite there being an amendment that implies so. Marijuana can be sold as vaping, oils, edibles, sprays, or tinctures and patients can also receive an order for 70-day supply before going back to the doctor for re-examination.
Significance of the Medical Marijuana Legislation
Within the standard theory of medical marijuana use, there are perceived health benefits alongside the risks for each individual. Essentially, it is a good day for the residents of Florida who have been finding it hard to access the drug for medicinal purposes. The legislation also comes along with several benefits. For instance, as Pacula, Powell & Heaton, (2016) notes, the passage of medical marijuana legislation might reduce the long-held perception of risks associated with the use of marijuana, as it can now be viewed regarding medicine. Specific dimensions of this law could also affect the norms surrounding the availability and access of the drug. In this context, patients who initially had a legitimate need for marijuana can now easily access it through the patient registries. In addition to the above, by legalizing Marijuana for medicinal use, the law is also clear on who can cultivate the drugs. In light of this, it becomes easy for states to regulate and control the potential abuse of marijuana by people who want to have it for recreational use only. For the ARNP and based on the contemporary trend on the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, they must first acquire knowledge on state-specific laws and regulations of the drug. Similarly, as with the administration of other controlled substances and medications, advanced registered nurse practitioners have the responsibility first to consider if they have sufficient knowledge and competency to accomplish the task.
The subject of medical marijuana is complex and has always garnered national attention, warranting proper investigation around the implication of legalizing it for use in health facilities for treatment. It is also undoubtedly true that medical marijuana has been in existence and used successfully by various individuals all over the world. By legalizing its use, the Florida State not only recognizes the medicinal benefits of the drugs but it is also a step towards ensuring the needs of the residents are well addressed. It is also a step further towards improved clinical outcomes and delivery of comprehensive care to the patients in Florida State.
Florida Senate. (2017). SB 8-A: Medical Use of Marijuana. Retrieved from: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017A/8A/BillText/Filed/PDF
McKenna, G. J. (2014). The current status of medical marijuana in the United States. Hawai’i Journal of Medicine & Public Health: a Journal of Asia Pacific Medicine & Public Health, 73(4), pp. 105-108.
Pacula, R. L., Powell, D., Heaton, P., & Sevigny, E. L. (2016). Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana Use: The Devil is in the Details. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 34(1), pp. 7-31.
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