Marijuana Sold Legally in Florida for the First Time Since 1937

For the first time since 1937, someone purchased marijuana legally this summer in Florida. And in the state capital, no less.

A small store in Tallahassee provided the scene for the historic moment. Tampa native Dallas Nagy, who suffers from chronic seizures and muscle spasms, paid $60 for medicinal marijuana.

The store is Trulieve, the first marijuana dispensary in the Sunshine State. “I thank you for the hope of getting better,” Nagy said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The marijuana is a “non-euphoric” strain of marijuana, the only kind that can currently be purchased in Florida. But that might not be the case come November. That’s when Florida voters will get to decide whether to approve an amendment allowing the sale of marijuana with higher levels of THC.

The Proponents Argument

So how could Nagy legally buy marijuana? Because two years ago the state Legislature passed a law allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for those with cancer or diseases that cause seizures. But it took until July 2016 to actually have it happen because of government red tape and legal challenges.

Amendment 2, which will be considered by voters in November, would expand current law.  It would grant doctors the legal authority to prescribe marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions. A similar amendment failed to get the 60 percent vote it needed to pass in 2014, falling just short at 57 percent.

The initiative is being backed by United We Care, a group founded by Orlando attorney John Morgan. This group got the necessary signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. They also have spent millions on promoting the amendment.

One of the arguments is that it will provide relief for those who suffer from chronic pain and are not getting relief through other medications. They point to many safeguards, such as the fact doctors must have a history with the patient and take a course before getting a license to prescribe marijuana.

The Other Side

Opponents of the amendment say it basically will legalize marijuana. This is because it is allowing doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana for any number of ailments. Christina Johnson, spokeswoman for the anti-amendment Drug Free Florida, told the Sentinel that the law could lead to doctors prescribing marijuana for such common conditions as headaches.

Those opposed to the amendment also said the number of medical marijuana dispensaries would outnumber the state’s Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s stories.  This claim Politifact found might be true when they looked into the case. Opponents argue such a proliferation of dispensaries would be bad for the state, obviously a debatable point.

Whatever happens with the Florida vote, it could be a big moment for the cannabis industry as a whole. With its elderly population, most experts are predicting there will be huge profits in the Sunshine State cannabis industry if the amendment passes.

Cannabis is legal in about half the U.S. states for medicinal purposes and in four states for recreational use. Even with those limited areas, marijuana sales topped $5.4 billion in 2015, the New York Times reported earlier this year.