Smokable marijuana is already available for patients at some dispensaries just days after Gov. Ron DeSantis legalized its use.
But the new law still requires the state to craft rules about how to obtain it.
Under Senate Bill 182, the Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine must create a new informed consent form for patients that requires them to acknowledge the specific risks of smoking marijuana.
They also have to create standards for doctors to follow when certifying smoking as a route of administration, and develop rules about what smoking devices sold at dispensaries should look like and how they should be labeled.
The Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use said the two boards and the Joint Committee on Medical Marijuana will meet in April to begin the approval process for the new forms.
In the meantime, doctors can use their own consent forms as long as they receive acknowledgement from patients that they explained the risks of smoking.
The changes seem to be taking effect much faster than past marijuana expansion. State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who was a big proponent for removing the smoking ban, credits Gov. Ron DeSantis for that.
"I think his desire to have this resolved quickly bodes well for a simplified process and access in a timely manner,” Brandes said.
Under former Gov. Rick Scott, the Department of Health was heavily criticized for how it handled the voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in 2016.
Brandes said, in terms of the new DOH rules, it’s pretty much a “wait and see” situation right now but added that the speed of the law passage and its implementation so far makes him optimistic.
“I think all of those things point me to believe that everybody is acting in good faith in this process and if we find somebody who is not acting in good faith, I think the legislature while it’s in session will begin to address it,” he said. “But I also know from the providers, they're ready to provide product in their dispensaries.”
As of now, only Trulieve is allowed to dispense smokable marijuana.
The first patient to receive it in Florida purchased it Thursday at a Trulieve store in Tallahassee.
Doug Dixon, a 59-year-old patient, purchased the whole flower he hailed as a safer and healthier alternative to prescription drugs to treat the pain he suffers from fibromyalgia.
The Crawfordville construction worker was already purchasing other cannabis products at Trulieve. He told the News Service of Florida he plans to smoke the whole flower in joints.
“It is good to have the alternative,” Dixon said. “These pharmaceuticals are killing people. I have lost so many family members.”
The other licensed treatment centers are working with the Office of Medical Marijuana Use to make their product available as quickly as possible.
A representative with GrowHealthy in Lake Wales said they expect to receive approval within a week.
Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, whose Quincy-based company sells more than 60 percent of the medical marijuana purchased by the state’s nearly 200,000 patients, said the sale of whole-flower cannabis will make medical marijuana affordable for many Floridians who are now financially shut out of the treatment.
“We do expect that there will be an increase in the Florida market,” she said. “I don’t know that we’ll see as much of a shift of current patients, as we will patients who have not been medical patients up to this point, entering the market because they now see a product that they are attracted to and that works for them.”
In other states where medical marijuana has been legalized, smokable products comprise between 40 and 60 percent of sales, according to Rivers.
Once a licensed dispensary receives approval to sell smokable cannabis, they can also sell delivery devices like pre-rolled joints, pipes and bongs.
The new law also allows patients to purchase these items – not actual joints, but rolling papers – from other vendors as well. Previously, smoking devices would have been considered illegal drug paraphernalia even if they were used to inhale legally obtained medical cannabis.
Patients still have to obtain devices that deliver other forms of marijuana, like vaporizers or droppers, from official dispensaries.
For more information about the new changes, patients and providers can check out this FAQ page created by the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Reporter Tom Urban with the News Service of Florida also contributed to this story.