The overwhelming approval of Amendment 2 by Florida voters last November marked a new chapter in the complicated legal saga surrounding marijuana regulation. Because the distribution and use of medical marijuana affect everyone from doctors to employers to growers and distributors, the law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick has established a Marijuana Law and Policy Group to guide clients, especially business owners, through the myriad and ever-evolving intricacies of state and federal marijuana law.
The SL&K group comprises attorneys specializing in business, employment, agriculture, health care law and more. “For instance, if you have an employee on medical marijuana, but your business has drug testing, how does that work?” says SL&K attorney Erin Smith Aebel. “We have people who figure that out.”
Smith Aebel, a Tampa-based health care attorney who represents and advises Sarasota physicians, says the goal is to help clients run their businesses while staying on the right side of the law. “Even before Amendment 2, patients were asking doctors for [marijuana] care, and doctors were coming to us with questions,” she says. “Doctors want to help their patients; we keep doctors out of trouble.”
Further complicating the matter, marijuana regulations are still in flux at both the state and federal levels. Previous Florida laws legalized marijuana for a small number of medical conditions; Amendment 2 extends that access, but the Florida Department of Health has yet to disseminate specific regulations. The deadline for those specifics is June 3.
In addition to uncertainties at the state level, President Trump’s administration may shake things up even further. “Under federal law, [marijuana] is still illegal,” says Smith Aebel. “Up to this point, the government has not been taking action, but that could change at any moment.”
That combination of uncertainty and far-reaching implications leaves clientele in search of specialized legal guidance. When asked about the current state of the regulations, says Smith Aebel, “My answer is that there are a lot of questions.”