Medical Marijuana: Get Ready for the Rulemaking

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: June 30, 2014 3:55 AM
Medical marijuana

If Amendment 2 passes in November, expect medical marijuana to dominate the business of the Florida Legislature in 2015, and probably long after that, say lawyers, lobbyists and a growing number of marijuana information consultants.

Already there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of entrepreneurial ideas afloat to cash in on medical marijuana as an industry in Florida.

"You look at all the polls, this issue is polling above 80 percent favorable across all social groups," said Mark Stein, a partner with the Miami law firm Higer Lichter & Givner. "Naturally, that's going to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit."

Mark Stein

Mark Stein

Stein, who has considerable experience helping the business law section of the Florida Bar work with lobbyists and state legislators to craft legislation surrounding businesses and industries, told Sunshine State News he is going full bore, sounding the alarm, as if the amendment passing is inevitable.

"In so many facets of Florida life, nothing will be quite the same from Jan. 1, 2015," Stein said. "There's a great deal to consider right off the bat."

Thinking ahead to November -- assuming passage of Amendment 2 as Mark Stein is -- Michael Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, which represents about 50 Colorado dispensaries, reminds Florida, “Cannabis doesn’t need to be fully legalized to legitimize itself. It’s not a stepping stone for patients. This is a medicine.”

That medicine is now fueling hundreds of tightly controlled, multimillion-dollar businesses in the Rocky Mountain State, and it will likely do the same in Florida.

Understanding and applying the new Florida law known as “Charlotte’'s Web” is critical for Floridians. But, claims Stein, it was tightly written, already falls under a newly created state office, applies to only five growers and affects probably fewer than 225,000 patients. Regulation on that bill, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, begins at an all-day Tallahassee workshop July 7.

The real bear, he said, is the wider-reaching ballot Amendment 2, which allows possession and consumption with a doctor's prescription.

"Colorado has been involved in more than a decade-long debate over how to manage medical marijuana. They've been dealing with it since 2000 and even though its regulations are considered meticulous, it's an ongoing thing. A work in progress. It requires tweaking year after year," Stein said. 

People need to understand that even when the law goes into effect in January, marijuana is still illegal under Florida and federal law, with very limited exceptions carved out by the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act,” says David Shiner of the Boca Raton-based Shiner Law Group.

Colorado has created a tight chain of control from seed to sale. Patrick Vo, chief operating officer of “BiotrackTHC, a seed-to-sale software tracking company, said he believes Florida must do the same. “He points out that in August 2013 the Department of Justice released a memo saying that those states and businesses that implement strong and effective systems of controls will be a low priority for prosecution.

Stein believes Florida can "borrow" a lot of regulatory ideas and language from other states like Colorado, Arizona and Connecticut. But there are factors for businesses special to Florida. "For example," he says, "Florida will be the first state without a state income tax to have medical marijuana. And how does the state intend to set and capture revenue? How many of our banks are going to take deposits from marijuana businesses? So much to be settled."

He expects businesses and public service agencies to divide into interest groups, because each will have a different set of concerns to regulate. The state Department of Health will lead the way, he said. "Law enforcement would be one interest group, public health people would be another. So would growers and retail businesses.

Stein said it's going to be important that the executive and legislative branch of state government work cooperatively.

"What I expect to see is something akin to a blue ribbon panel convened to address regulation, because this is going to be heavy going. These folks are going to have to become experts in very complex minutia," he said. "The law is going to have to apply to some 40 diseases. And, believe me, if you've seen the Colorado regulation spelled out, you'll know it's 130 pages of very painful reading."

Most states with new medical marijuana laws are protecting themselves by including in their regulations hefty doing-business fees which likely will be passed on to consumers.

For example, in Illinois regulators' requirements for opening medical marijuana grow centers and dispensaries include these fees:

-- For dispensaries to sell pot, state officials proposed a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, proof of $400,000 in assets, a $30,000 permit fee and a yearly permit renewal fee of $25,000.

-- For cultivation centers, the Department of Agriculture proposed a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee, $250,000 in liquid assets, payment of $200,000 upon approval of a permit and a renewal fee of $100,000.

In Colorado, medical marijuana dispensaries are under constant surveillance. State regulators explain the cameras are necessary because each dispensary is technically illegal from the federal government's point of view, so the state goes overboard to keep tabs on each operation.

Security cameras behind black domes watch every corner of every room, covering every inch of each facility. As required under the complex regulatory scheme that state policymakers have crafted, the cameras’ feeds are transmitted to video screens at the offices of the Colorado Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. State regulators watch 24/7.

Each of the hundreds of plants growing in the dispensary is tagged with a radio frequency identification chip. Employees must sign in every time they enter the inventory room. The route that the company’s trucks take has been precisely outlined and approved by the enforcement division. Even the size of the font on signs posted on dispensary doors is dictated by state law.

"There's a great deal to be thought through, a great deal to do," said Stein. "Some businesses won't be open for at least a year -- the structure just won't be ready."

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

Comments (23)

Michael Swannick
3:58PM SEP 18TH 2014

As a former New York State Law Enforcement Officer and sick 9/11 First Responder I'd like to tell you why we need the passage of amendment 2 come Nov. 4.

My Medical Conditions: Renal Cell Carcinoma - Right Nephrectomy, Papillary Cancer - Thyroidectomy, COPD, Bronchiectasis / Atelectasis, Reactive Airway Disease, Growing Lung Nodules, Right Temporal Brain Lesion, GERD, Pre Barrett's Disease - Severe Dysplasia, Degenerative Spinal Disease, Sinusitis / Rhinitis, Severe Sleep Apnea and RLS.

It took some experimenting on my part after I got sick before I was convinced, I wasn't always pro Amendment 2 ( Legalization of Medical Marijuana). Prior to my experiments the only experience I had with marijuana was when I was a teen, I just couldn't see how their would be any benefit to the use of this drug for treating patients. But, I was basing my assumption on my past use when I was a kid, I wasn't sick back then, I was a vibrant kid who felt great.

I had no idea just how superior marijuana was/is over opiate medication. With one kidney, I need to be very careful when taking Vicodin, Oxycontin, Codeine and all the other dangerous, addictive medications that physicians are allowed to prescribe to patients. I don't want to kill my only kidney and end up on dialysis, aside from that... My stomach is shot from all the medications, steroids and GERD. My stomach will no longer tolerate these medications, I get sick within 15 minutes and then my stomach is shot for the rest of the day.

I'm out of options, If physicians can prescribe dangerous opiate medication, I cannot find any logical reason why they should not be permitted to prescribe a less harmful medication like marijuana. ALL medical treatment options should be between patients and their physicians, politicians should have no business interfering with "ANY" treatment options that are available.
Sage Davis
5:24PM JUL 1ST 2014
Good afternoon: Can you give more details on the July 7, seminar in Talahassee?
Thank you

Rachel Kurtz
9:36PM JUN 30TH 2014
The article says that Florida would be the first medical marijuana state without an income tax, but Washington State does not have an income tax. Do you mean no B&O tax?
5:05PM JUN 30TH 2014
How about we let the DOCTORS decide which medicine is best - NOT THE GOVERNMENT?!

~HempStaff, Florida's Medical Cannabis Staffing Company
David M. Lane
1:50PM JUN 30TH 2014
I guess I believe these decisions should be between the physician and the patient. The last thing we need in Florida is to have Republican legislators making decisions influencing our healthcare and treatment. They have made an absolute mess of our public education system in this state by dabbling in areas not of their concern or experise. Keep legislators out of our medical care and treatment. Please!!
12:57AM JUL 1ST 2014
Don't you mean Obama interferring with our medical care. Keep drinking that kool-aid!
7:48AM JUL 1ST 2014
Emjay. That was totally wrong. Although, if you think obamacare is goverment intrusion and you are for goverment intrusion into my healthcare by not allowing me to choose a natural medication you are being a bit hypocritical. Are you another 1 of those folks that believes only your rights are imortant and worthy of protecting while willing to give away other peoples rights? Or do you beieve in the Constitution and that all rights are important?
Institute of Medical Cannabis
1:36PM JUN 30TH 2014
As Palm Beach Counties first Medical Cannabis Institute, we are dedicated in educating & instructing individuals that are interested in learning about medical cannabis and the medical cannabis industry.

Check us out at IMCflorida.org!
1:12PM JUN 30TH 2014
In 1936 Popular Mechanics magazine wrote about Hemp/Cannabis was a Billion Dollar Crop today its more like a Trillion Dollar Crop.
1:08PM JUN 30TH 2014
When talking to marijuana patients from other state many like the grow local buy local you get from farmers markets. There is room for big bizz. but poor people need to have the right to grow their own.
Florida MMTC Institute
10:55AM JUN 30TH 2014
Balanced article and speaks the truth. There will be many opinions and concerns, but that is healthy democracy. We learn from California and Colorado that regulation is key. However, let's strive to get the full plant approved to treat a wider range of serious conditions as well as opening up the opportunities for the small business owner. floridammtc.org
10:15AM JUN 30TH 2014
the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

ENLIGHTENMENT...i was a brainwashed evil, mean, christian conservative until i tried it at 17 years old...i hated gays, immigrants, women's rights, blacks, marijuana, i was Rush Limbaugh's #1 fan....until i smoked marijuana....changed the world, hope the EVIL POPE is enjoying the marijuana revolution around the globe, keeping the flock brainwashed and against marijuana, gays, and women's rights

1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy...#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed...

"any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death" - cali secret 420

from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice...no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

Deaths by Alcohol: Millions

Deaths by Tobacco: Millions

Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade

Deaths by Guns: Millions

Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions

Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever...they are killing my American family while denying freedom

love and freedom forever

12:58AM JUL 1ST 2014
You are so FOS. Don't let the facts get in the way of your opinion!
8:11AM JUN 30TH 2014
Some businesses won't be open for at least a year. What? Yet today some street dealer has a suitcase full of Mexican grown marijuana, illegally crossed the border marijuana to sell to you now yet you say it will take a year to open up a legal dispensary! The state wants to increase taxes or raise toll road fees and with a snap of a finger and it's done. No more excuses, if the people vote yes on amendment #2 This November jump on legalizing medical marijuana like you would vote yes giving yourself a pay increase Florida Lawmakers and Governor.
Robert Samuel Kaplan
8:00AM JUN 30TH 2014
My name is Robert Samuel Kaplan Candidate for Florida State Representative District 74. Sarasota County, Florida. My future constituents are concerned with the passage of the 2nd amendment concerning medical marijuana. Not only my future constituents are being heavily taxed in other areas of issues concerning America, there has to be accountability to where the taxes of medical marijuana will be distributed as I feel my future constituents have been taxed enough concerning Sarasota County, Florida and all the rest of the Counties of Florida for that matter. If the medical marijuana bill passes, my question is: Since my future constituents will be taxed because of the passage of this bill, will the passage of this bill help balance the budget for the State of Florida and will it be used to help support Education like the Lotto's money was to support Education? I need to know how to answer this question. You may call me at 941-600-8473 to debate my questions because personally, I do not need to smoke marijuana to cure me. Respectfully, Robert Samuel Kaplan Candidate for Florida State Representative District 74 Sarasota County, Florida.
8:21AM JUN 30TH 2014
If you don't know the answer to the questions you are asking us then you have NO business running for any political office. We need leaders, not followers. But I can't resist, No to your question concerning more money into education. Enforcing illegal immigration and sending illegals back to where they came from will do more for education than money will.
8:15AM JUN 30TH 2014
Respectfully, you failed to understand what Nancy or the Amendment says. If elected you would be 1 of those responsible for determining what fees and taxes would apply and how those funds would be spent. I am glad for you that you have no need of Medical Marijuana, YET! BUT, not a good reason to deny somebody else the right to use this medication. I would bet that many of those you hope will elect you may well be grateful for Medical Marijuana.
7:38AM JUN 30TH 2014
Thank You Nancy for saying just what I have about the rules. The anti-Medical Marijuana folks are lying when they describe what Florida will be like after Amendment 2 passes. I ask that everybody, except RC, please vote Yes on Amendment 2 and make all strains of Medical Marijuana legal in Florida. Thank You
7:03AM JUN 30TH 2014
I have some regulations that I feel would be appropriate in light of the debilitating effect that pot has on one's driving ability.

So let's consider that there is truly a need for pot. Well how do you prevent driving while under the influence? Here are some qualifying regulations to obtain medical pot:

1) The person must surrender their Drivers License for Florida Resident ID and no longer be able to legally drive a motor vehicle.

2) Although I am a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I would support a ban for those dependent on pot the right to carry a concealed weapon. This is not gun control it is pot control, it would deter those who just want to use pot socially from those who really need it. It will answer the question "Do you really need Pot?"
12:19PM JUN 30TH 2014
When you study how the Nixon policy of scheduling marijuana against what his medical adviser Dr. Egeberg who was bullied into only a temporary classification #1 1970 and discarded 700 pages of his own commissioned Shafer report. We are now going into our 45th year of temporary classification of marijuana still waiting for the final classification of cannabis and in these past many years they still have not found any scientific justification for its prohibition.
Jiminy Cricket
10:41AM JUN 30TH 2014
Sure, but why not go even further? Let's put them in work camps and confiscate their property, and go house to house looking for undocumented pot users.

We just need to keep everyone safe.
7:56AM JUN 30TH 2014
I have some regulations for you.
If you drink alcohol even just one beer ever, then these same regulations should apply to you and everyone else. If you ever are given a prescription from any doctor you should turn in your drivers license and any firearm that you own. You should never be allowed to operate machinery, ride a motorcycle, bicycle, golf cart riding lawn mower or even walk on public walkways.
Do you really need to live?
You people who are opposed to medical marijuana are so backwards. Get you facts together and see how marijuana has been proven to help people. Tell Janea Cox how awful medical marijuana is and she will tell you to jump in the lake because her 4 year old daughter Haleigh has seizure disorder and marijuana has stopped 95% of these seizures. Maybe you think Haleigh should be punished for using this medicine. That's exactly what your comment is saying to those in need of medical marijuana.
7:45AM JUN 30TH 2014
RC, quit acting like a blivet. How is that you discount all the harm done by alcohol and other perscription drugs? You should be ashamed of yourself. You are quick to give up somebody elses rights, while you would demand your own. Try being real, having some compassion and quit being a hypocrit. Remember, if you can give up my rights then you can lose yours as well.

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