The growing tensions between prospective producers of medical marijuana and state regulators have now become political fodder as former Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday blasted the Gov. Rick Scott for a plan to use a lottery to select the companies that will develop legalized pot in Florida.
Speaking to reporters in Miami on Friday, Crist said he believes the system should be based on a merit-selection system, similar to one endorsed by nurseries, investors and families of people suffering from the ailments the low-THC marijuana will be used to treat.
"The best way to award any contract is to have a good, open, honest, competitive process," Crist said when asked about the issue Friday, according to the News Service of Florida.
"I don't know that a lottery is the right way to go, frankly,'' he said. "It seems to me that people ought to submit their applications. They ought to be reviewed, thoroughly reviewed in a comprehensive fashion, and those that are determined to be the best are the ones that should get the contracts."
Crist’s comments come a day after the Department of Health, an agency of the governor, released its proposed rule for the development and cultivation of the low-THC marijuana.
The issue has the potential to become a legal fight, or discourage many companies from participating, and Crist is clearly prepared to use this as another wedge issue against the governor.
Despite appeals from families and prospective companies that the agency use a merit-based system to select who will obtain the licenses, the agency -- fearing litigation -- continues to adhere to a lottery system. Under the rule, the companies will comply with certain criteria and from that list a computer-generated "double random lottery-type system" will decide which companies will be granted the license in each of five regions of the state.
Among those who support using a merit-based system are dozens of Tallahassee's biggest-named lobbyists and lawyers, most of whom are Republicans, who have been hired to represent the wanna-be pot producers.
Crist is also a supporter of Amendment 2, the proposal on the November ballot to allow for the legalization of a broader array of marijuana for a specific list of ailments. He has been heavily backed by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who is the prime supporter of the amendment and is Crist's boss at the Orlando-based law firm of Morgan & Morgan.
Scott has not commented on the marijuana rule but has indicated that he personally opposes the amendment. Scott was joined on the campaign trail on Friday with former Gov. Jeb Bush, who came out in opposition to Amendment 2 on Thursday.
Photo: Charlie Crist and John Morgan