Bill would allow annual medical marijuana renewals be performed virtually

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FLV) – Lawmakers are working to pass a bill that will authorize qualified physicians to perform patient examinations and evaluations through telehealth for the annual renewals of physician certifications for the medical use of marijuana.

The bill was carried by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-Fort Myers, which passed unanimously 20-0 through the Health & Human Services Committee Friday.

It now moves to the House floor for consideration.

Under the current law to obtain medical marijuana, a person must have a physician certification from a qualified physician and an identification card from the Department of Health.

To certify a patient for medical use of marijuana, a qualified physician must perform a physical examination of the patient and determine that the patient has a qualifying medical condition and that medical marijuana would likely outweigh any health risks.

Current law states a qualified physician must be physically present in the same room when conducting the examination and must conduct an examination before the initial certification and any subsequent renewal certifications.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, on March 16, 2020, the Florida surgeon general issued an emergency order authorizing physicians to conduct examinations using telehealth to renew physician certifications of existing qualified patients.

Roach said they didn’t see any problems from this change.

The Emergency Order expired on June 30, 2020, thus requiring in person examinations for renewal of physician certifications.

The bill retains the requirement that a qualified physician conduct an in-person physical examination on a qualified patient for an initial physician certification and authorizes qualified physicians to use telehealth to conduct examinations for a renewal certification.

Rep. Adam Anderson, R-Palm Harbor, said he was previously a caretaker for someone in the medical marijuana program, and while he feels there are some people who abuse the program, it will improve the lives of those who need it.

The bill will have no fiscal impact on state or local government and, if passed, will be effective starting July 1, 2023.

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