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Florida Already Undermining Amendment 2, Patient Advocates Say

February 3, 2017
The Duval County Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.
More than 70 percent of Florida voters passed Amendment 2, the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment, last November. But now lawmakers and Florida Department of Health officials are trying to warp the law even before they implement it.
The language in Amendment 2 was clear. It empowered the Department of Health to register and regulate dispensaries, and left it up to the state’s physicians to determine when a patient’s condition qualified for medical cannabis.

Rather than creating the infrastructure for a new medical marijuana program, though, the Department of Health wants to fold an expanded MMJ program into the structure currently in place for the state’s limited, low-THC, high-CBD program created in 2014. The department is also seeking to give the Florida Board of Medicine—not individual doctors—the authority to approve or deny qualifying medical conditions.

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The changes are expected to be the subject of heavy debate at five public hearings on the new law, set to be hosted next week by the Department of Health (details below).

Ben Pollara, the Amendment 2 campaign director who also helped write the amendment, said the changes violate both the spirit and letter of the law. “It is clearly defined and requires no further definition,” he said earlier this week. “It is patently up to the physicians, and that’s what we intended when we wrote it.”

There are only seven cultivators currently licensed to produce low-CBD, high-THC cannabis in the state. Under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, passed in 2014, very few patients could qualify for the program and cultivators were required to pay $5 million to be considered as growers.

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The Health Department’s move is receiving some pushback in Tallahassee from state legislators, some of whom want to see Amendment 2 implemented as written.

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), a backer of Amendment 2, recently introduced Senate Bill 614, which would force state regulators to implement Amendment 2 as written. In an official statement, Brandes emphasized the need to recognize the will of the voters. “The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate,” he said. “Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana.”

“The state today artificially limits the number of marijuana providers, promoting regional monopolies and standing in the way of the physician-patient relationship,” Brandes added. “This legislation removes those barriers and will provide expanded access to Floridians who could benefit from the use of these products.”

SB 614 also eliminates the existing cap on medical marijuana treatment centers and establishes four new licenses for the program: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail. The system does not require vertical integration, and applicants are allowed to possess multiple license types.

Ben Pollara applauded the bill.

“Sen. Brandes’s bill does an excellent job of establishing a comprehensive, tightly regulated medical marijuana system in Florida,” he said. “The two most essential pieces of implementation are maintaining the primacy of the doctor–patient relationship, and expanding the marketplace to serve patient access.”

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The Florida Department of Health will host five hearings around the state next week to hear concerns from the public on the medical marijuana issue. If you want to make your voice heard, please fill out a public comment form or attend one of the following hearings:

  • Monday, February 6, 2017 – 2-4 p.m. in Jacksonville
  • Duval County Health Department
  • 900 University Blvd. N.
  • Jacksonville, FL 32211
  • Tuesday, February 7, 2017 – 10 a.m.-12 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale
  • Broward County Health Department
  • 780 SW 24th St.
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
  • Wednesday, February 8, 2017 – 9-11 a.m. in Tampa
  • Florida Department of Health, Tampa Branch Laboratory
  • 3602 Spectrum Blvd.
  • Tampa, FL 33612
  • Wednesday, February 8, 2017 – 6-8 p.m. in Orlando
  • Orange County Health Department
  • 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive
  • Orlando, FL 32809
  • Thursday, February 9, 2017 – 4-6 p.m. in Tallahassee
  • Betty Easley Conference Center
  • 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148
  • Tallahassee, FL 32399-0850

Lisa Rough's Bio Image

Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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  • lovingc

    You need to let the capitol know if they don’t follow the initiative as written they will be looking for jobs next election. Don’t let them slide.

  • Tim Bambam

    Sounds like a lot of the same B.S. that New Yorkers have gone through. Before the latest changes to the existing laws there were only 3000 patients in the entire state after almost 2 yrs of having a Medical Marijuana law.
    The problem for most states is when they have governors who dont agree with the laws the voters voted in. In New York even with all the studies that prove otherwise. Governor Cuomo has been against the Medical Marijuana laws from the begining. So for New Yorkers can not buy anything smokable . No vaping no flowers. Everything is in pill form or tinctures.It is also very expensive to purchase any of these products. The state said doctors should charge $50.00 to write a recommendation. The problem with this is its a suggested price, you have some doctors who are charging $350.00 for a recommendation. They also had a very limited list of ailments that would allow for a recommendation. The added quite a few more ailments when the law was updated.
    Hopefully with the changes that have bben made it will get better for New Yorkers. Personally I will continue to purchase my flowers from an outside source.