Politics, Weed, and Asshats: Why the Florida Legislature Can’t Agree on Medical Marijuana
Florida’s citizens have been working diligently since 2009 attempting to legalize medical cannabis therapy. This is mostly due to the fact that Florida’s State Legislature has time and time again failed to act in passing any meaningful legislation for sick patients in need. In 2014, we saw Orlando trial attorney and big money political donor John Morgan revamp citizen led efforts to pass a constitutional amendment that would give patients with debilitating medical conditions. Unfortunately, a crux of low voter turnout in the off year election and a last minute multi-million dollar push by opposition forces to scare voters led to the amendment only garnering 58% of the vote. Granted no state has every passed a medical cannabis initiative by such a large margin, however, 60% is required by the Florida Constitution to pass an amendment.
Amendment 2 saw revival in 2016 after efforts by the cannabis community and the supporters of the amendment to gather over 1 million signatures to put it back on the ballot. In the end, over 71% of Florida voters chose to vote for a revised ballot initiative. The amendment allows for the Florida Legislature to adopt implementation language and regulations. This legislative session was nothing sort of a circle jerk between the House, Senate, Drug Free Florida, and Florida for Care. The same opposition forces who funded the No on 2 campaign were behind crafting the House version of the implementation bill. In addition, Florida for Care, United for Care’s legislative arm, chose to opt for limits on the number of dispensaries a grower could operate. This in the end killed any agreement between the House and Senate versions.
As of Friday, May 5th, we witnessed good old fashioned Florida corruption at its best. Ben Pollara, the Executive Director of Florida for Care and campaign manager for United for Care, pushed for dispensary limits in the Senate version of the bill. Some posit that this was due to his consulting work for growers not yet in the Florida market. This weekend, John Morgan, United for Care Chairman and Amendment 2 benefactor, placed the blame on Pollara for screwing the pooch. Whether Ben Pollara had a conflict of interest or John Morgan was engineering a grand show so he could sue the state in preparation for a run for governor is irrelevant.
What is relevant is that our elected officials, the men and women we placed our trust in and empowered through our social contract, the Florida Constitution, failed we the people. Regardless of how many millions Mel Sembler and Drug Free Florida contributed to see a restrictive medical cannabis program or the backroom deals made by those who attribute themselves allies to the patients, our Senators and Representatives were duty bound to do the honorable thing and implement Amendment 2. Patients are running out of time.
Now, due the legislature’s inaction, Amendment 2 will self-execute and place the regulatory power in the executive branch under the Department of Health. The Office of Compassionate use has been rife with corruption since the initial licensing process for cannabis growers in Florida. The DoH will have until July to write regulations and September to formally issue ID cards. However, patients can get their cards under current regulations after a February opinion by the head of the Office of Compassionate Use, Christian Bax.
How all this will shape up? It is going to take a concerted effort by the people to show up to Department of Health public hearings and push for whole plant therapy. The only light in all this mess is that these implementation bills banning smoking flowers are not going to be the law of the land. Perhaps the people will have better luck with the bureaucrats. Either way, we have a lot of work to still do.
Some may find the use of colorful language and vulgar colloquialisms offenses in this article, however, the greater offense is that for several years now the Florida Legislature has failed its citizens in bring medical cannabis therapy for the hundreds of thousands suffering across our great state, and for that they deserve every bit of ridicule.