Charlie Crist Takes On Scott Administration over Pot Plan

By: Dara Kam News Service of Florida | Posted: August 18, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist

On the campaign trail in South Florida, former Gov. Charlie Crist blasted Gov. Rick Scott's administration Friday for using a lottery to select five organizations to grow, manufacture and dispense a now-legal type of marijuana that purportedly does not get users high but can reduce or eliminate life-threatening seizures in children with epilepsy.

Crist, a Democrat trying to win back the job he left four years ago, took a break from a three-day school bus tour in advance of the Aug. 26 primary against former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich to schmooze with local officials at the League of Cities annual meeting at The Westin Diplomat Resort.

Despite strong opposition from nurseries, lawyers and parents of children pushing for the non-euphoric pot, Scott's administration has refused to back down from a decision to use a lottery to award five highly sought-after licenses. Under a proposed rule released Thursday, the Department of Health will grant the licenses to businesses that meet certain qualifications and will use a computer-generated "double random lottery-type system" to decide the winner in regions with more than one eligible applicant.

"The best way to award any contract is to have a good, open, honest, competitive process," Crist said when asked about the issue Friday. "I don't know that a lottery is the right way to go, frankly. It seems to me that people ought to submit their applications. They ought to be reviewed, thoroughly reviewed in a comprehensive fashion, and those that are determined to be the best are the ones that should get the contracts."

The rule including the lottery provision is far from a done deal, however. After holding two workshops on the rule, health officials will hold another hearing Sept. 5 and could modify the proposal after that.

Lawmakers gave the state's "Office of Compassionate Use" until Jan. 1 to come up with a regulatory framework for getting into the hands of patients a strain of marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD.

The law, passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature this spring and signed by Scott, restricts nurseries from participating unless they have been in business for at least 30 years in Florida and grow more than 400,000 plants. About 60 nurseries are eligible for the licenses, but lawyers for at least one grower have threatened to sue over the rule unless the lottery provision is dropped. Under the proposed rule, nurseries would only have to have 25 percent ownership in the entity applying for a license.

Crist made his comments Friday before winding up the bus tour in Miami and greeting volunteers at a new field office.

In what has become almost the norm in advance of the November election, the two governors' paths crisscrossed. Scott also made an appearance in Miami-Dade County on Friday to tout his record creating jobs.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a national Republican star reportedly considering a run for president in 2016, joined Scott on the campaign trail for the first time this season at the Homestead event.

On Thursday, Bush came out against a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow doctors to order "traditional" medical marijuana for critically ill patients. That amendment will appear on the November ballot.

Scott has said he personally opposes Amendment 2, which has been heavily bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who also is Crist's Morgan & Morgan law firm boss.

Polls have shown Florida voters of all ages and parties overwhelmingly support medical marijuana. But GOP leaders have balked at the proposed amendment. Tampa Bay developer Mel Sembler, a major Republican fundraiser close to the Bush family, contributed $100,000 to a political committee launched to fight the proposal.

But Crist on Friday called medical marijuana "the right thing to do," reiterating his support for the amendment.

"I think it's compassionate. I think that if a doctor prescribes medical marijuana to somebody who's truly suffering and in need of help, I think it's a lot better than prescribing something powerful like oxycontin that's so harmful," Crist said.


Tags: News, Politics

Comments (5)

3:33PM OCT 1ST 2014
Don't be tricked by lies, vote yes on 2. Legalize, tax, regulate. Stop the failed drug war. “Amendment 1, being a conservation amendment, Amendment 2, being a medical marijuana question, Amendment 3 being a question about changing when Supreme Court Justices may be appointed, are pretty straight forward compared to ballot initiatives in the past.”
dianne renusch
11:46AM SEP 4TH 2014
How do they qualify those growers????
7:09AM AUG 23RD 2014
"Polls have shown Florida voters of all ages and parties overwhelmingly support medical marijuana. But GOP leaders have balked at the proposed amendment", typical politicians, come out against what voters overwhelmingly want.
2:00PM AUG 19TH 2014
If Charlie really believed in Amendment #2, what they do now with this stupid Charlottes Web wouldn't mater. We will have real meds long before this CW law actually produces any meds. Hey Charlie, if you have any political guts at all, how about coming out in favor of patient cultivation ?
6:32AM AUG 18TH 2014
Lawmakers had the chance to pass a real medical marijuana law and chose to not even give 1 a hearing until they realized Amendment 2 was going to be on the ballot. Then they half-stepped it with Charlottes Web, showing their compassion by taking a year to get the rules in place? Bahumbug! A year just to figure who gets to grow. What about the Patients that need that medicine now? Conservative lawmakers only care about their jobs. Citizens come second. Please Vote YES on 2. For The Patients! Thank You

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