Did you know medical marijuana is legal in Florida?


Sorry for the rhetorical question – it's just hard to tell, you know, because despite voters overwhelmingly approving Amendment 2 in 2016, many patients are still waiting for relief.

The Florida Legislature took its sweet time coming up with laws to implement medical cannabis in the state and finally turned it over to the state Department of Health. DOH said, "Hold my beer," and has managed to move even slower than the Legislature in coming up with regulations for patients and growers. The glacial pace pissed off even the most lackadaisical lawmaker – so much so that they voted in March to withhold $1.9 million in salaries and benefits from the department until health officials get their shit together.

It's hard to tell how effective lawmakers were in putting the fear of God into the Office of Medical Marijuana Use – as of April 6, there's still a backlog of more than 26,000 patients waiting for their card applications to be approved, according to DOH. Across Florida, cities with panicked local officials who still believe the myth of marijuana as a "gateway drug" made access harder for patients by banning dispensaries within their borders. You won't find them in Winter Park, Apopka or Winter Garden – but dispensaries are allowed in unincorporated areas, thanks to fearless Orange County commissioners.

So, how long is it going to take to get real access to marijuana – medical and recreational, in the forms we want it and in enough locations? Well, we're a long way from becoming the next cannabis mecca like Colorado, but regular Floridians across the state are fighting tooth and nail to get the medicine they need.

This year in our annual 420 Issue, we've profiled pot patients who refuse to give up – including a local U.S. Army combat veteran who's taken the federal government to court for his right to use medical marijuana, and a Tampa cancer patient who persuaded a Florida judge to let him grow his own. And we take a look at the (possible? probable?) future by visiting blaze-happy Sin City, and attending a secret cannabis-infused luncheon somewhere in Orlando. Step aside, basic pot brownies – only classy joints allowed.