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Medical Marijuana Activists Slam Rigid House Legislation

March 10, 2017 - 6:00am

Medical marijuana advocates are furious over a new House proposal they say will severely limit both the availability and marketability of a life-saving drug in Florida.

Earlier this week, the House filed its 61-page proposal to give Floridians expanded access to medical marijuana, but there are some caveats. 

Under HB 1397, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, Florida’s current seven dispensaries would be given first dibs on selling medical pot. After 150,000 patients enroll in the medical marijuana registry, the department would then, and only then, open up licensing to the second round of dispensaries. 

After 200,000 patients register, the state would license five additional medical marijuana treatment centers. 

The number of growers wouldn’t be the only thing the bill would limit. 

Not only would smokeable cannabis be banned, but patients would also be barred from buying more than a 90-day supply of marijuana, edibles would be off-limits and “vaping” would only be allowed for terminal patients. 

So if you can’t smoke medical marijuana, how do you ingest it? 

The delivery methods, activists say, would be far and few between for suffering patients, requiring them to use different routes of ingestion, like marijuana oil or capsules, in order to find relief. 

Cannabis oil can cost patients a pretty penny -- up to $250 per gram. In Colorado, the same amount costs $30.

Under the new law, patients’ medical marijuana licenses aren’t permanent, either -- they can easily be yanked if they are charged with a drug offense or if they are somehow “cured” of their ailment. 

Statewide medical marijuana activists criticized the legislation as a step backwards for Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

United For Care campaign director Ben Pollara told Sunshine State News the new regulations didn’t paint the same picture voters envisioned when 72 percent of them passed Amendment 2 last November.

“It seems pretty absurd that the House is putting forward a proposal that's more restrictive in many ways than the existing statute, given their charge was to implement a constitutional amendment that is universally agree to be broader,” Pollara said. 

Pollara and other pro-pot advocates argue the new restrictions totally close out the idea of a free market and eliminates competition in the medical marijuana dispensary industry. 

“This bill enshrines the seven cartels and totally closes out any free enterprise people,” said Tom Murphy, founder of St. Petersburg-based Gulf Coast Canna Meds. “There’s nothing more price gouging than an oligopoly.”

Murphy is just one of the people trying to cut a piece of the pie with his dispensary, but the possibility seems to have dimmed with the introduction of HB 1397. Not only do Murphy’s ambitions for a medical marijuana business seem to fade with the bill, but patients, he says, will also suffer.

“Nothing good can come from it,” he explained. “How many patients can afford to get a gram a week? If they live a long distance from a dispensary, they’ll slap on another $50 for a delivery fee. What happened to the idea of taking care of the least capable in our society?”

Pollara agreed, questioning why lawmakers would want to regulate the industry so heavily that the true mission of Amendment 2 becomes fuzzy.

“I have to wonder how rank-and-file conservatives in the house -- especially the young-gun freshmen -- feel about an implementing proposal that deviates so far from basic free market orthodoxy,” he told SSN. 

From a legal standpoint, lawyers say the new legislation would actually be easier to implement than any other proposals floating around because its rules are so tight.

“You’re dealing with a finite set of licensees, at the end of the day enforcement is all about the ability to put your hands on the licensees over whom you have jurisdiction,” said GrayRobinson partner Richard Blau, who heads up the firm’s medical marijuana practice.

Blau told SSN there was no way to move but forward on the issue. 

“The genie is out of the bottle,” he told SSN. “There’s no putting him back in.”

Other state lawmakers have gone the opposite route and proposed broader regulations for the medical marijuana industry. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, recently filed legislation to repeal the state’s medical marijuana regulations and possibly open up the medical marijuana industry beyond the seven dispensing organizations currently allowed under state law.

Critics of the bill said they were trying not to view it as a be-all-end-all for medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. 

“I think that it is a starting point and I think there will be lots of negotiation,” said Murphy. “I’m betting everything that I have, and [all that] my friends have ... and all of the rest of us who want to do something good, we are betting our livelihood that this will [be worked out.]”




Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.




To the "house panel" and every other elected official that swore to represent OUR wishes and doesn't agree with our new medical marijuana law: Stop trying to nullify our vote. Make it accessible in all forms. That is what we voted for. Make it affordable - limiting licenses makes it unaffordable, therefore Inaccessible. If you don't give us what we voted for, the 'house panel' better get their resumes ready. Like it or not, your job is to implement the will of the people, not subvert it. I mean, really...have you all lost your minds? You really think your opinion is more valid than the people who elected you? We voted, we decided, you don't get to handcuff our law. Remember... if you do, get those resumes ready.

Sick people should not be required to jump through flaming hoops in order to get relief from pain! Most are already required to make monthly doctor visits and are lucky to find a pharmacy willing to fill the prescriptions given to them as it stands now. Stop dragging your feet and acting as if cannabis is the demon weed of the 70's. The reason amendment 2 went to ballot was because our leaders failed to provide for our sick. This bills proposal is unacceptable and does not follow the way amendment 2 was written or as it was intended to be implemented. Elections are coming soon, and the people of Florida are taking notes. comes more money to keep getting the gambling, drugs and LGBT rights....all misleading bills...with a clear agenda.

you guys aren't getting anything pot growing for my friends..... Rick Scott

This is is very smart approach. The last thing Florida needs is to follow in the footsteps of loser states like Calif and Colorado. We can learn from others' mistakes, not dive in behind them into a shallow ditch.

You're crazy Florida need to legalize marijuana big time I'll slow down all the pill mills and everything else

Florida is so far behind on this matter it's sickening. All they had to do was copy Vermont's Medicinal program... DONE!

The House Bill just proves that the brain dead zombies aren't using cannabis. A freemarket is the only way to go for patients. The Brandes bill is acceptable as a starting point. And for those with no understanding of how medical cannabis works. Smoking flowers is the safest and fastest way to medicate. Less risk of over use. Medical Cannabis is here to stay. Anything not patient centric is pure partisan politics and we will remember next voting cycle.

Cannabis, life saving? Get real Allison. And a great hardship that smokable pot will not be allowed? You are showing your stripes, which are that medical pot is just a charade to open the door ASAP to legal recreational pot.

Everyone knows Cannabis causes bad cells to kill themselves. Government has 2 patents since 1970's.

You're a bigot! That is all you are. You are absolutely only concerned about whether or not someone is getting high! You are knowingly hurting people to support your bigotry! You care not at all if it helps anyone or not! You only care if they are getting high! CBD doesn't work by itself!

The cartels will never make a dime - at $250.00 a gram for oil and $93.00 a gram for flower. Who will pay these prices when you can get a better product from illegal market st 1/10 the cost? Cartel owners got suckered! Open market is only way to compete By the way Florida has 1000's of dispensary's already - there is one in every HS, every neighborhood- it's an existing market in Florida - its over a billion dollars now. We should be moving the policy forward with an eye towards national repeal of cannabis prohibition- there is a bill in the house now to do this

This is very true, but those who would like to ingest 'legally' want choice, affordability, & access. I look at other State's models & find Vermont's very straight forward, logical & scientifically based... Florida's is just backwardass

Why is there a war on marijuana? Daily thousands die from legal drugs alcohol, Tobacco, opium etc. I can call my dr, stop by pick up a script, run to walgreens (on every corner) and walk away with up to 300 percecets that insurance will pay for. But a natural plant, in use for over 8000 years (evidence in china) with NOT ONE documented death. Fact: in states with legalized marijuana crime has gone.. DOWN, opiod death and addiction.. DOWN, traffic incidents.. DOWN, youth use same or.. DOWN. Yet the government and many of you probably christian readers would rather keep marijuana an outlaw crop. This is ridiculous Where is that Christian compassion for people who feel they could benefit from this NATURAL PLANT. Or would you rather they get addicted to synthetic government santioned drugs and... DIE. In this example you MUST pick either choice a or b: your only child has been out with friends. They must drive home for an emergency, remember you must pick a or b. You cannot abstain!! Be honest..... A: Your child was drinking all night OR B: Your child was smoking pot all night ALCOHOL KILLS and has, and will continue to DESTROY lives Marijuana makes people better.!!

10,000 years. Japan. Also was used by the Romans, Greeks and Persians.

Tie your man-bun tight, take a deep breath and order decaf at your favorite Starbucks.

Tsk,...Tsk,... "Take two aspirins and call me in the morning !" (Doctor "Common Sense" M.D.)

The Constitutional Amendment was supposed to be about ACCESS to this medicine for patients. Right now the 7 licensed dispensaries can serve well over 1,000,000 patients. As of today there are about 3,000 patients in the registry. Seems there is more medicine than there are patients. Of course the people who were peddling Amendment 2 really just want to legalize recreational marijuana. They wont be happy until there is a pot shop in every corner. Sorry, not gonna happen

But your ok that thousands die daily by taking legal opium, cigarettes, and alcohol because why??

Sadly, I am not at all surprised by how our rulers have taken an opportunity for many of us here in FL to live, or live with less suffering, and used it to inevitably create something that will benefit only themselves and their friends. It's one more example of how our Democracy is nothing more than a Plutocracy in disguise. It's not hard to assume that this was their plan all along if it the people chose to do what those in power did not. It seems to happen this way on many, many things, not just legalization of medicinal cannabis. When will the people ever learn? Reading this made me cry knowing that while I will qualify, the hoops required to jump through, and limitations placed are not something that people who are truly I'll will be capable of doing. Thank you for this article, and thank you to everyone that's fighting for the lives of those of us who cannot fight for ourselves!

Time to start sending these representatives home. If they do not wish to execute the will of the people they can find new jobs.

Thank you sunshine state news for publishing the voice of the public. Please shame florida's number one rated most corrupt legislature in the country. Drug companies continue to kill over 100,000 people a year making tens of billions of dollars bribing and lobbying politicians in the name of greed. Thousands have attended public hearings on medical cannabis. Patients and veterans are out raged by the most restrictive corrupt proposed regulations. 72% of Floridians voted for open access medical marijuana. Many thanks to Ben Polara and staff for their watchdog efforts battling for the people against a legislature taking millions of dollars from drug companies who continue to kill Floridians every year. Florida has a beautiful opportunity to put 1 million people to work over the next decade while saving thousands of lives from prescription drug overdoses reaping Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Please call out the corrupt Florida legislature for what they are and demand open patient access with no patient registry which is a violation of Hippa regulations. The people demand that authorities focus their efforts on serving voters rather than lining their pockets's.

The Voters spoke............ Yes, but not for this B.S.!

This is not a new situation...look at the states that have already legalized and see what works best...sheesh!

The GR lawyer couldn't be more incorrect. According to the Colorado Drug Czar this type of approach actually makes it more difficult to monitor and regulate because you are creating 7 very large, very powerful organizations. Breaking licenses up---and spreading them out---actually would lead to more efficient regulation AND better prices for patients.

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