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Medical Marijuana, Gambling Both No-Shows on First Day of Session

March 2, 2015 - 6:00pm

Sometimes, what politicians leave out is more interesting than what they actually leave in. Case in point: the start of the new legislative session in Tallahassee. Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida Legislature had a lot to say on Tuesday as the new session began, but they did not talk much about gambling and medical marijuana.

Of course, gambling and medical marijuana are two of the most contentious issues in the state and more than a few observers expect something to happen on one or both of them in the next 60 days.

Gambling is certainly on the front burner after events of this week. Dana Young sent Tallahassee into overdrive on Monday with her plan for more slot machines and casinos. Young cant be discounted by gambling opponents. As the GOP leader in the House, Young is one of the more powerful legislators in the Capitol and her star has been rising for quite some time. Add in to the equation the first bill being passed by the Senate this year, tackling how racetrack owners treat greyhounds, and gambling was the topic du jour in Tallahassee.

But Scott, Andy Gardiner, Steve Crisafulli, Arthenia Joyner and Mark Pafford pretty much ignored gambling on Tuesday. The subject didnt even warrant a mention in Scotts State of the State on Tuesday. The same held true about the legislative leaders. None of them touched it or even acknowledged Youngs legislation.

Medical marijuana was also a no-show on Tuesday. Just like gambling, none of the leaders even talked about it. Admittedly, the Republicans have been pretty open about wanting to see how the Charlottes Web bill they passed last year worked before they touched it again.

On the other side of the aisle, Joyner and Pafford were MIA on the topic, as well. They had no problem trashing Scott on the economy and education but they were also silent on medical marijuana. Even though 58 percent of voters backed Amendment 2 in November, Joyner and Pafford didnt even raise the topic. That cant be a good sign for John Morgan and the coalition that backed Amendment 2. It looks like their only option would be to gather up the petitions and get ready for another proposed constitutional amendment come 2016.

A lot can happen in 60 days, of course, and gambling has more traction than any major action on medical marijuana. But neither topic is at the top of Scotts, Gardiners and Crisfaullis agenda and the Democrats know it. Even as the Seminoles start running new TV ads to renew the compact, based on the first day of session, Florida can expect other issues to get more time and attention from Scott and the legislative leadership.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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