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Speaker Oliva Up on Free-Market, Down on Smokable Medical Marijuana

February 1, 2019 - 9:00am

He’s not calling it a cartel, as Gov. Ron DeSantis did.

But House Speaker José Oliva acknowledged this week that the state’s “vertically integrated” medical marijuana system --- which requires operators to grow, process and dispense cannabis and related products --- “isn’t terribly free market.”

“I couldn’t possibly be a defender of free markets and call that structure a free market,” the Miami Lakes Republican, who made his fortune in the cigar business, told reporters Wednesday at an Associated Press event at the Capitol.

Along with vertical integration, the system includes limits on the number of potentially lucrative licenses for medical-marijuana businesses. The industry has quickly grown after voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment making the marijuana treatment available to a broad swath of patients.

“The limiting of licenses and the limiting of dispensaries is probably the greatest affront to the free-market argument,” Oliva added.

Whether the Legislature will agree to change the current system during this year’s legislative session, however, remains a mystery.

When asked about revisiting the state’s regulatory structure, Senate President Bill Galvano gave a tepid response.

“I expect that bills will be filed in that regard,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

Oliva is known for taking free-market stances on issues such as health care. But he did not take a firm position on dealing with marijuana regulations during the session, which starts March 5.

“I’m not entirely sure that that’s not something that we will be revisiting this year, because it affects access and it could certainly affect price,” Oliva said. “We’re still trying to get an idea of what kind of demand there really is for this. But I wouldn’t disagree. … It hasn’t been a terribly free-market process.”

Shortly after taking office, DeSantis bashed vertical integration and the caps on licenses, including likening the system to a cartel. Moving away from vertical integration could involve opening the industry to companies that wouldn’t be responsible for all aspects of the cannabis business. For example, some companies could operate solely as dispensaries or as growers.

But this week, DeSantis appeared to walk back his opposition to those issues, focusing instead on his demand that the Legislature do away with the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana licenses have sold for tens of millions of dollars, including one transaction in which a license sold for $63 million in cash this month. When asked if doing away with vertical integration would destabilize the market, Oliva replied, “If the question is, would having a more free-market approach destabilize the private market, in particular the value of these licenses, well, sure, that’s what markets do.”

“If the question is, will it destabilize the market and its ability to bring forth products that are safe and traceable and consistent, I don’t think it will do that. So, yeah, if you put more houses on the market, chances are you’ll have to lower the price of your house,” he concluded.

DeSantis has focused heavily on eliminating the ban on smoking medical marijuana, a prohibition that was included in a 2017 law carrying out the constitutional amendment. A Leon County circuit judge ruled that the smoking ban was unconstitutional, and former Gov. Rick Scott’s administration took the issue to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

The new governor has threatened to drop the appeal if lawmakers don’t eliminate the smoking ban. But Oliva is not keen on allowing patients to smoke marijuana.

“Is one to believe that an 8-year-old child should be smoking marijuana and inhaling smoke into their lungs? I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life, and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you,” he said.

The speaker indicated he thinks the push to allow smoking is part of an effort to open the door to legalizing recreational marijuana.

“Is medicine a façade and a masquerade for recreational marijuana? If it is, that won’t be very supported by the House. If we really want to look at marijuana, and what ailments it can truly relieve and people it can actually benefit, then that’s what we’re looking at,” Oliva said.


All of you hysterically fighting for free marijuana...drop another Oxy.

The push to legalize marijuana was money. Morgan & Morgan pushed this for a vote because he stands to make a lot of money on it. I have already received a lot of e-mails telling me I can make a lot of money in investing in this stock. He purposely pushed for medical because he knew this was the only wy to get it passed, but once passed, you can be sure the next step would be for recreational. When we have so many young people dying from overdoses of drugs, does it make sense to legalize marijuana & smoking it when too many young people got started on marijuana before they went to harder drugs. Now Govt. is doing whatever they can to stop this overdose on drugs, so does it make sense to legalize it? Once they make it possible to smoke it, you can be sure ads will appear everywhere to encourage people to use it. Tell me, if marijuana is so great, why did the Governor of Colorado regret signing that Bill and wishes he could change it. If you saw the pictures of the youth there, you could see how stoned they were and their future gone. you will soon see the ads to buy it.

You Esther are exactly what's wrong with the wing nut naysayers. You're either uninformed, ill informed or knowing and willing spreading false propaganda. The Governor of Colorado never said he regretted signing the legalization bill, in fact, just the opposite. And cannabis isn't a gateway drug. That nutty theory has long been disproved. If such a gateway exists, it's either nicotine, caffeine or prescription drugs. In fact, medical cannabis has helped to save lives and lower opiate overdoses. I really feel sorry for folks like you. Locked into the "Marijuana Madness" propaganda, unable and or unwilling to look past the lies and see facts and truth. Pathetic!

Too bad Nancy doesn't get one of the Cannabis Advocates like Gary, Bill or Josephine to guest a blog and actually inform folks about Medical Cannabis. But, that doesn't toe the party line, does it?

Oh Balderdash! Another Republican being against the people. Ignoring the vote, mixing up the facts, all in order to make the situation more complex and complicated. Fact. Smoking medical cannabis is the fastest and safest way to medicate. Fact. Cannabis smoke doesn't contain the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. Fact. Cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years. And nobody has died from it. Unlike tobacco, which has killed millions. It's all about not doing the will of the people. Folks in his district need to be reminded of his unwilling and uninformed attitude next election.

"Free market" is a figment of Republicans' imaginations. The United States has ALWAYS had a "regulated market" ... and Republican Teddy Roosevelt was the most regulation-minded of all! "Free market" is just a euphemism for business being as free as possible in terms of being able to take unrestricted (and often, unscrupulous) advantage of workers and consumers (ex: drug companies).

well stated, they are many things that should be regulated to protect the people from the system. In this regard, history keeps repeating itself. Some are just stuck on stupid I guess, sort of like trickle down economics part 23...

Flawed regulations are always subject to correction...and "free market" is just that: "FREE"; with no creative mandate for minimizing the number (or color) of entrepreneurs, nor "lateral entry" of same initially OR "down the road" (THAT'S socialists' UNEQUAL "version of equality" thinking)

Those against lower cost more widely available medical pot need to be careful as elections are only 21 months away...…….. Smoking is the safest way as one can control the dose in real time with near instant relief vs the others can easily overdose people...………….. The cartel they created has to end as just runs up the cost of the medicine. ………...As one that needs it I just can't afford either the cost to get it, $250 for the right or the cost to buy what should be lower cost of under $100/ounce...……….. So you force me to keep buying on the black market as many others...…………….Pot is one of the safest drugs because it is smokable and in my case replace opioids makes it a no brainer except by our legislature who want to keep the graft flowing...………..That someone paid $65mm for a license has nothing to do with this other than massive political donations such bring...……. Let's get the money out of it and relief to those who need it...………...Most don't know pot has been legal for medical use in Florida for 21 yrs now as in our constitution we have the right to get, use any drug we think we need and has been through the SCoFla 2 x. ………..Last time the court said case dismissed, do not refile charges and don't bring another case like this again on people growing, using pot for medical use. They can arrest you but can't convict as multiple cases since have shown. Just few know about the rulings.

What a bunch of BS. “Is one to believe that an 8-year-old child should be smoking marijuana and inhaling smoke into their lungs? I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life, and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you,” he said." Maybe if the lawmakers banned cigar smoking this boy (Oliva) might sing a different tune. Besides the topic was smoke-able cannabis for patients not 8 year old children. Let us not forget the older folks in the state, of which we have plenty who seek the benefits of cannabis.

Its all part of the sham. They try to limit access to how it is obtained, then they limit licenses, so they can sell them to the highest bidder, and pay back their buddies who are footing the bill. At least there are those who recognize it for what it is, a monopoly, a cartel, whatever language they want to use. I bet this talk quickly subsides, and I mean real quick. You don't bite the hand that feeds...

You hit the nail on the head , it's all about money, that's a billion dollar industry and everyone wants a hand in the cookie jar

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