By Jenny Bloom
Washington Cannabis Connection
Yet again, Florida is having a hard time implementing a medical marijuana program. In 2014, the state legalized low-THC marijuana but made access to it nearly impossible. As a result, the Department of Health spent nearly $1.3 million in legal fees trying to defend their decisions. Now, the 2016 medical marijuana law may face the same fate.
The Fight Over Access
In 2016, more than 71% of Florida’s voters agreed that marijuana should be approved for medical use. They then turned over the responsibility to the legislators to determine how it would be done. Unfortunately, this is where the baton was dropped in the relay. The Florida House disagrees with the Senate over how many storefronts and businesses should be allowed.
Why the worry? Thanks to the success of marijuana in other states such as Washington, Florida represents a unique opportunity for industry investors. Not only is it the first state to legalize in the Southeast; it also has an estimated 500,000 patients. Florida is one of the largest marijuana markets in the country, and legislators were faced with deciding who would be allowed to sell to them.
Lobbyists and Loyalists
While the 2016 law did not introduce Florida to the medical marijuana industry, it significantly increased the number of qualifying patients and approved types of marijuana. The current licensed businesses expected this to mean increased revenue for their already established operations. Unfortunately, those wanting into Florida’s marijuana industry felt otherwise. They called current businesses a ‘cartel’ that limited the marketplace.
The fight over influence in the legislative house was intense. Lobbyists filled the floors, attempting to fight on behalf of their benefactors. It was a potential green rush whose fate was being decided at the State House.
For weeks, GOP leaders in the House and Senate argued over how to approach licensing of marijuana businesses in Florida. In the end, Amendment 2 was all but agreed upon, except for the number of available business licenses and the number of stores open for patients.
Failing Florida’s Patients
With no agreement, the bill died – leaving the decision into the hands of the likely incompetent Department of Health.
Justifications were issued from both sides.
“The House did everything it could to pass a bill that complied with the voters’ wishes on everything we could,” explained Representative Corcoran, R, from Land O’ Lakes.
However, the Senate painted a different picture, saying they did not receive final updates from the House and were forced to decline what they deemed a failed proposal.
“I didn’t think 100 was a serious proposal,” Senator Negron said. “I was expecting the House to consider a number that was at least in the ballpark of reasonableness. … I think a reasonable interpretation is that the bill died in the House.”
Although Negron and others have suggested a special session to finish discussions, at the time of this post it is unclear if this will be done.
Who is ultimately to blame? According to attorney (and possible Governor hopeful), John Morgan, the answer is simple. “They didn’t do what they’re supposed to do, which is implement medical marijuana laws.”
© 2017 Washington Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.