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After more than 72 percent of voters statewide voted to legalize medicinal marijuana for people with “debilitating diseases,” a term that includes cancer, AIDS, and Alzheimer’s, the Florida House today passed its own series of rules regulating the state’s new medical weed industry, reported the Miami New Times (MNT).
the Republican-crafted bill bans smokable weed, creates a state-controlled cartel of legal cannabis farms, and pisses off medicinal marijuana advocates across the Sunshine State. Today that terrible bill — HB 1397 — passed the House by a 105-9 margin, said MNT.
“Don’t get me wrong, they made significant improvements, because even the second and third versions of the bill kept getting worse,” says Ben Pollara, policy director for United for Care, the group that pushed for a medical weed constitutional amendment in 2014 and 2016. “But this is still a fatally flawed piece of legislation.”
During the 2016 elections, voters had passed Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana by large margins, the only caveat was that the Florida legislature would then have to vote on how to govern the practice. And evidently, through the evidence of HB 1397, that has turned out to be a governmental disaster. According to MNT, the original text of the law states that all forms of smokable, edible, and vape-able weed are banned.
“Well, how can you ingest it?” asked Pollara. The bill was actually more restrictive than the laws in place before Floridians legalized medical cannabis, MNT explained.
It wasn’t until there was outcry from legalization advocates that the Florida House amended the bill to allow for edibles and vaporizers for qualifying patients, said the report.
Critics argue that is far from the last of the issues with the bill however. MNT argues that the most crippling portion of the bill are the House’s rules that require doctors to provide formal “prescriptions” for pot as opposed to “recommendations,” which medical marijuana advocates prefer. The “prescription” requirement hamstrings the bill for an obvious reason: Marijuana is still federally illegal, and doctors who “prescribe” medicinal cannabis can lose their FDA licenses.
“So now, doctors who care about keeping their licenses won’t prescribe marijuana,” Pollara says. “Instead, only the scummiest pill-mill docs will.” In an effort to prevent bad doctors from prescribing marijuana to people who don’t need it, Pollara contends, the House has all but guaranteed that bad doctors will be the only ones handing out weed in Florida, according to MNT.
Pollara, who has been advocating for continued fixes to the bill says that lawmakers are attempting to regulate marijuana “like amoxicillin or OxyContin,” which doesn’t work because weed isn’t yet legal or FDA-approved, according to MNT.
“It’s willful ignorance,” he says. “It’s not ignorance in an absence of facts. This is the single biggest thing we pressed the House leadership on. It’s the core of the law.”
MNT also mentions that the bill gives what it calls “criminally small number of licenses for farmers to grow pot.” With only seven allocated so far across the state.
Pollara argues to MNT that this effectively creates a legal pot cartel whose members can work together to set prices and avoid competing with one another, just like the state’s four much-despised private-electricity cartels.
And it’s clear that license-holders are already able to make vast sums of money from exploiting the cartel system. Last month, the Canadian marijuana company Aphria bought a license through an arcane, complicated legal process that, analysts say, set the price of a cannabis license at $200 million, said MNT.
The bill must still clear the Florida Senate, after facing revision rounds. And this is expected to happen somewhat quickly as the state’s 60-day legislative session ends in just three days.
“The Senate has been much more reasonable about this,” Pollara says, according to MNT. “I hope they amend it and send it back to the House again. Right now, we’ve just got 72 hours to go.”
But, he warns, “the state Legislature has a rich history of thwarting the will of the people.”