April 09, 2019

Bill to cap strong smokable pot heads to House floor


Despite jeers, boos and shouts of "willful ignorance" from opponents in the crowd, a bill aimed at limiting THC — the naturally occurring element in marijuana that produces a high — is headed to the House floor.

The House Appropriations committee gave the green light to a bill Tuesday that would put a cap on the amount of THC in marijuana flowers at 10 percent, citing research indicating that high-potency marijuana is associated with earlier onset of psychosis and the development of schizophrenia in marijuana users.

Current law places a limit on the amount of THC in edible products only, which may only contain 10 mg of THC per serving and 200 mg in total. The levels are much higher than what most patients would normally consume, according to industry experts.

Despite heated criticism by opponents that the bill is trying to curb the Legislature’s recent repeal of a ban on smoking medical marijuana, committee chair Rep. Ray Rodrigues said the bill is necessary because of the research around harmful effects of high-THC marijuana.

“As a policymaker, our goal is to do no harm and make sure the public policy we are adopting is good for the state of Florida,” the Estero Republican said. “ High THC being smoked is harmful … we will focus on the areas we see harm.”

The bill also prohibits doctors from certifying patients under 18 for marijuana for full-strength marijuana, gives free medical-marijuana identification cards for veterans and provides $350,000 to the Department of Health to implement the bill.

To the disappointment of some veterans and former opioid users who showed up to the committee meeting, an amendment that would define an opioid addiction as a qualifying condition did not pass.

“For many patients, medical cannabis has become an exit drug for their addiction to opiates,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, who put forth the amendment. “They have begun taking medical cannabis and it has helped them wean themselves off a more powerful medicine that has the ability to kill them.”

The right to smoke medical marijuana was backed by the Florida Legislature and quietly signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month The bill also establishes a research consortium, allows products like bongs and rolling papers to be purchased and requires a second opinion from a board-certified pediatrician for non-terminal patients under age 18.

Opponents to the bill take issue with the limited dosage, and say it defies the law that was passed last month, will force prices up and will drive patients to the black market to get higher-THC marijuana. 

Smith said for $60 a bag, people will turn to the black market where their marijuana could be unsafe or laced with dangerous chemicals.

"Who is best suited and positioned to decide what the THC content is going to be most effective? It’s not us," he said. "It should be the doctor."

A veteran and cancer survivor named "Morgan" said for his condition, low THC cannabis is "not worth smoking."

“This 10 percent cap is nonsense ... No cap should be allowed,” Morgan said. “I need a high THC dose. Being a cancer survivor, having no thyroid … I need high doses of THC to get in my blood system to make sure I’m medicated.”

Josephine Cannella-Krehl, a clinical social worker and marijuana advocate, asked that committee members consider Cathy Jordan, the ALS patient who has become the face of the movement to lift a ban on smokable medical marijuana. Jordan smokes marijuana every day to treat her illness, which has kept her living decades beyond her initial life expectancy. Her cannabis strain tests well above 10 percent THC, Krehl said. 

"This bill is a death sentence for Cathy Jordan and patients just like her," she said. 

April 03, 2019

Bill to cap smokable pot strength gets OK from House panel


A bill aimed at limiting THC — the naturally occurring element in marijuana that produces a high — passed its first committee Wednesday.

The House Health and Human Services committee approved a bill that would limit the amount of THC in dried leaves and marijuana flowers to 10 percent, citing research indicating that high-potency marijuana is associated with earlier onset of psychosis and the development of schizophrenia in marijuana users.

The bill also prohibits doctors from certifying patients under 18 for marijuana for full-strength marijuana and gives free medical-marijuana identification cards for veterans.

Current law places a limit on the amount of THC in edible products only, which may only contain 10 mg of THC per serving and 200 mg in total. The levels are much higher than what most patients would normally consume, according to industry experts.

Despite criticism that the bill is trying to curb the Legislature’s recent repeal of a ban on smoking medical marijuana, committee chair Rep. Ray Rodrigues said the bill is necessary because of the research around harmful effects of high-THC marijuana.

“It is not an effort to restrict smoking,” the Estero Republican said. “Roughly half the states that have a program have a THC cap.”

The right to smoke medical marijuana was backed by the Florida Legislature and quietly signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month The bill also establishes a research consortium, allows products like bongs and rolling papers to be purchased and requires a second opinion from a board-certified pediatrician for non-terminal patients under age 18.

Rep. Cindi Stevenson, who brought up the research around psychosis, said if they don’t pass the bill, they are essentially “putting a stamp of approval on something that can cause violence.”

“Psychosis can be quite devastating,” the St. Johns Republican said. “If someone is not being treated, there is an increased chance of violent acts and that is amplified if you take an illicit drug.”

Opponents to the bill take issue with the limited dosage, and say it will force prices up and drive patients to the black market to get higher-THC marijuana.

“This [bill] is bad policy,” said Melissa Villar, of NORML Tallahassee. “It blocks access to the current strength of marijuana that has helped thousands of patients in the state already.”

Ron Watson of AltMed, a Sarasota-based medical marijuana treatment center, said the research citing psychosis as a side effect is too obscure to base legislation on.

“The patient has to go back and see the physician every 210 days. If this was occurring, physicians would be telling us about that,” he said. “If we pass this, it’s going to strengthen the black market and we’re trying to do everything we can to move away from that.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, who voted no on the bill, said it ties the hands of the doctors who decide on the dosage for patients.

“I can’t support this because I think this goes against what the will of the people have asked for,” the West Park Democrat said.

Rep. John Cortes, a Kissimmee Democrat, also voted no on the bill.

“I love Rodrigues’ bill, but the cap is the killer.”

February 27, 2019

Miami Beach Rep. files first bills to legalize recreational pot

Associated Press

Miami Beach Rep. Michael Grieco made the first go at legalizing recreational marijuana in Florida Tuesday, filing two separate bills that would legalize personal pot use and create an excise tax on the drug.

HB 1117, co-sponsored by Orlando Democrat Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, would make recreational marijuana legal. The bill specifies that only those 21 or older could purchase the drug in no more than 2.5 ounces at a time and restricts smoking the drug to private places only. If someone were to smoke in public, according to the bill, they would face a $100 penalty.

In the 58-page bill, Grieco and Smith also addresses the highly criticized vertical integration model, which by law requires medical marijuana treatment facilities to grow, process, market and sell their own goods. The bill says if passed, retail stores could buy, sell or deliver marijuana from another marijuana cultivation facility.

The bill also mandates that 5 percent of the recreational marijuana revenues be given to the Department of Health to provide grants for peer-reviewed research on marijuana's beneficial uses and safety.

HB 1119, which Grieco filed separately, creates an excise tax to charge growers $50 an ounce for marijuana that is sold or transferred from a marijuana cultivation facility. It also caps the application fee for a marijuana establishment license at $5,000.

Considering the amount of pushback medical marijuana bills have already faced this session, these bills will likely face an uphill battle. House Speaker José Oliva has openly criticized smoking medicinal marijuana, and said efforts to legalize it was just “some cover” for getting access to recreational use.

He pointed out that the drug is still illegal under federal law, and is still a concern because of its “highly marketable” quality.

The recreational use of marijuana is currently legal in 10 states, with New Jersey soon to be the 11th. In 2018, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana for adult use through the legislative process.

Grieco said even though he and Smith expect pushback on the bill, the language is "consistent with the will of the majority of Floridians." 

"We're going to see next year a majority of Floridians voting on this," Grieco said, referring to potential ballot initiatives. "Even if we get pushback, it continues the conversation. It’s a conversation that’s being had nationally. I expect some movement to be had federally, prior to the presidential election next year." 

In 2016, Grieco received $20,000 from marijuana entrepreneurs Rustin and Evan Kluge for a mayoral campaign fundraising operation the then-Miami Beach commissioner denied involvement with. That committee, called People for Better Leaders, raised more than $200,000 from Miami Beach developers, lobbyists, city vendors and residents in the run-up to the 2017 mayoral election.

"Rep. Smith and I worked tirelessly to try to get the bill language perfect to ensure access, protect local decision making and create a revenue-generating structure for the state," Grieco said.

Smith, who serves on the House Health Quality Subcommittee and has been vocal about legalizing smokeable medical marijuana, said he co-sponsored the bill because criminalizing adult use "just doesn't make any sense." 

"There’s no reason cannabis can’t be regulated in ways similar to alcohol," he said. "No one is dying from cannabis overdoses but they are getting arrested and being given criminal records for no good reason ... We expect that it’s always going to be a tough legislative route, but that’s not a reason to stop advocating for it." 

Gary Stein, of Clarity PAC, said while the bills do important work like move the program under-regulated industries and separate it from the medical program, it still has issues Stein says could be roadblocks.

Stein points out that the excise tax imposed “far too high” and that the term “recreational” is a misnomer. He also thinks the Legislature needs to fix the medical marijuana program before it can move in this direction.

“This is a good legislative start and a way to open the discussion for the future,” he said. “But we still have to fix the medical program before we can move in this direction. Other states have hurt their med programs by rushing to adult use, and we need to be cautious that it doesn’t happen here.”

February 21, 2019

House bill to repeal medical marijuana smoking ban advances


As Sen. Jeff Brandes put it Wednesday, "The end is in sight, we’re not far.”

Both the House and Senate bills to repeal a ban on smokeable medical marijuana are hitting some of their final stops this week, bringing them one step closer to the chamber floors.

The House bill, brought by Rep. Ray Rodrigues and the Health and Human Services Committee, passed favorably in appropriations Thursday, including a strike-through that got rid of requirements for filters on medical marijuana cigarettes. The amendment also appropriates $1.5 million in recurring general revenue to fund a consortium to research the effects of medical marijuana.

Only Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican, voted no. 

“Bronchitis, lung issues, all these other things that are a big concern to me,” he said about the bill last week. 

The two bills have grown more similar through each committee stop, which Brandes said has helped the process. A key difference is that Senate version doesn't limit smoking to pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes and instead allows for a 35-day of whole-flower supply.

The House bill recommends the Board of Governors designate which state university will hold the consortium, a change from the bill's former language specifying the University of Florida. It also sets aside about $705,000 for three positions at the Office of Medical Marijuana Use and about $215,000 for technology upgrades to the medical marijuana registry.

Lawmakers in both chambers agree that more needs to be done to make access more affordable and accessible to patients across the state. But they say they plan to address that kind of legislation in the future, and are more focused now on getting smoking ban repeal bills to the Governor's desk by the deadline.

"I've been given assurance that future legislation that will be considered by this body will address cost and affordability concerns," said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who voted yes on the bill. "Although this isn't perfect, it's hard for me to vote against it."

Rep Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said he thinks Rodrigues' bill will help patients, but that issues like vertical integration will need to be taken up in a future bill. Vertical integration is the part of the medical marijuana law that requires license holders to grow, process and sell their own product, as opposed to offering contracts to other vendors. 

"There are some things we need to do that aren't addressed in this bill, and don't need to be," he said. "Something needs to be done to break the logjam that is keeping the medicine from the people who need it."

Gov. Ron DeSantis in January tasked the Legislature with amending Florida law to allow smoking medical marijuana. If legislators don’t by the deadline, the governor said he will do so with litigation.

In 2016, about 71 percent of voting Floridians approved a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. While the 2017 bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott legalized access to the drug in pill, oil, edible and vape form, it made smoking it illegal. In addition to the ban on smoking, the law also capped the number of medical marijuana licenses and the number of dispensaries in the state.

The provision, which became known as the “smoking ban,” was challenged in circuit court in July 2017. In its complaint, People United for Medical Marijuana, Inc., argued the smoking ban altered the definition of “marijuana” and by banning smoking in public, implicitly authorized smoking marijuana in a private place.

In May 2018, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers declared the smoking ban unconstitutional, but the Department of Health appealed the ruling later that month.

After DeSantis announced his intent to drop the appeal should the Legislature not act to remove the smoking ban, both parties filed a motion to stay the appeal until March 2019.

August 28, 2018

Parkland parent says Wells Fargo’s conduct on guns and marijuana is dishonest



Fred Guttenberg wasn’t happy with Wells Fargo’s decision to keep banking with the gun industry after the Parkland shooting, in which his daughter Jaime was one of the 17 people killed, but he was willing to continue talking when the bank’s CEO told him they wanted to remain politically neutral.

Then came the bank’s decision to shut down Florida Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried’s campaign account due to the financial support she received from the medical marijuana industry.

Guttenberg, angrier still with what he perceived as the bank’s hypocritical stance, emailed Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan asking him to reconsider their gun policy now that they waded into marijuana politics. 

He didn’t get a response.

And the final straw came Monday night, when CNN reported that Bloomberg News reassigned a reporter who covered Wells Fargo after the banking giant complained about the reporter’s coverage of Wells Fargo’s ties to the gun industry.

“I think people ought to move their accounts. We’ve seen what Wells Fargo will do to consumers in the past and now we see what they do to those who disagree with them,” Guttenberg said in an interview. “I could have gone public multiple times. When I read today that they’re actually seeking to punish people for covering their bad behavior when it comes to guns, now I’m going to go public because I’m angry.”

Guttenberg, a vocal proponent of increased gun control measures who is working to elect lawmakers who agree with him on the issue, said the Wells Fargo CEO’s behavior is different than others he’s confronted in public, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Senator Rubio, he and I have had many private conversations because maybe one day we’ll try to come together,” Guttenberg said. “It became a problem to me when it became clear [Wells Fargo was] lying. I went public when they actually took action against someone.”

Read more here.

May 29, 2018

John Morgan tells Gov. Scott: Drop appeal in smokeable medical marijuana case



Orlando lawyer and medical marijuana advocate John Morgan urged Rick Scott Tuesday to reconsider pursuing a ban on smokeable cannabis, after a Leon County circuit court judge ruled it was unconstitutional late last week.

In a press conference with reporters, Morgan said the governor is responsible for the state’s decision to appeal and flouting voters’ desire to smoke the drug for medical use privately.

“What everyone needs to understand is that Gov. Scott could remove that appeal today if he wants,” Morgan said. “Gov. Scott should say enough is enough: ‘I am going to allow the people’s will to be done.’ “

“The most direct method to get relief is smokeable marijuana,” Morgan added. “This is not a political issue.”

Judge Karen Gievers, in a 22-page decision, had ruled Friday that the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana was unconstitutional and that the Legislature's ban on smoking medical cannabis conflicted with voters’ approval of a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized it in 2016.

In concurring with plaintiffs’ arguments that the voter-approved definition and ballot language implied a right to smokeable medical marijuana, Gievers rejected arguments asserting the state had the authority to set limitations on smoking for health and safety concerns.

But the state filed an appeal shortly thereafter, putting an automatic stay on the ruling as it goes to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

"This ruling goes against what the legislature outlined when they wrote and approved Florida’s law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority," state Department of Health spokesman Devin Galetta wrote Friday.

But Morgan cast the decision to appeal the ruling as a misguided political choice that Scott should reconsider amid his ongoing U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. Bill Nelson.

He called on voters — including veterans, alluding to Scott’s perpetually-worn Navy hat — to contact the governor and urge him to end the state’s legal challenge.

Scott “is going to have to explain to veterans and really sick people and people who have really bad injuries why you kept this going,” he said. “Pam Bondi is just his lawyer… Rick Scott is the boss and the buck stops there.”

If he drops the appeal, “I think he gains 5 points overnight,” Morgan said. “Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something he doesn’t have to do.”

Morgan also blamed the pharmaceutical industry and opioid makers for wanting to drag out the case and trying to suppress the medical marijuana industry, accusing them of being threatened by a more effective product.

“Gov. Scott is going to have to make a decision whether he is going to put politics over people or he’s going to put campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry over compassion,” he said.

Morgan said Tuesday he was willing to wait a few weeks for Scott to heed his call before potentially moving to expedite the case to the state Supreme Court.

“If a person is terminally ill, you can move to expedite trials, hearings, the whole process,” he said. He noted the diagnosis of 68-year-old Cathy Jordan, one of two patients who are among the plaintiffs in the suit. Jordan has Lou Gehrig's disease and illegally grows marijuana in her own backyard to smoke.

Morgan said he believes the ballot language, the statement of intent and the support of more than 71 percent of voters is ironclad, regardless of the court’s ideological tilt: “I believe that if [late Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia was alive, he’d side with us.”

April 03, 2018

Medical marijuana provider sues Department of Health over caps on dispensaries


Florida medical marijuana provider Trulieve is challenging a state law that caps how many dispensaries it can open and where, saying it unfairly restricts its constitutional right to open storefronts "without arbitrary and unreasonable limits."

The Gadsden County-based business filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health, dated late last week in Leon County circuit court, asking a judge to exempt Trulieve from a provision in a 2017 law that limits businesses to 25 dispensaries for medical marijuana. The company says in its complaint that it had already applied for 27 dispensaries — two more than the limit — before the law was passed and the caps put in place.

"The statutory caps – established years after Trulieve had been awarded a license to grow, cultivate, distribute and sell medical marijuana in Florida – were unfairly and wrongly added after the award and such restrictive caps were never contemplated in the application and selection process," the company said in a press release.

The complaint requests that a judge allow Trulieve to move forward with all 27 locations, in addition to the 25 dispensaries that it would be allowed under the 2017 law, for a total of 52 possible locations.

In its filing, Trulieve says its original application for a license from the Department of Health made clear “its plan to locate dispensaries throughout the state. Upon comparative review, DOH granted Trulieve’s application without any limitation on the number of dispensaries.”

Neither the 2014 law allowing low-THC cannabis nor the 2016 constitutional amendment widely legalizing medical marijuana had set caps on dispensaries. It was when state legislators passed a law implementing the constitutional amendment last year that they imposed the 25 dispensary limit.

“The right to compete statewide without restriction was an essential part of Trulieve’s business plan and a significant incentive to enter this novel business,” Trulieve's attorney David Miller continued in the complaint. “In reliance on the statutory policy to encourage statewide competition, Trulieve sought to add dispensary locations around the state, which benefits patients and the public.”

The 25-dispensary limit, which expires in April 2020, also divides the state into five regional quotas based on those areas' population. According to the lawsuit, Trulieve has already hit its quota in the northwest area of the state spanning much of the Florida Panhandle.

“The sole purpose of this statutory cap on the number and location of dispensaries is to temporarily suppress competition among [medical marijuana treatment centers]," Miller wrote in the lawsuit. The caps "will impair Trulieve’s vested rights as a dispensing organization, and diminish the value of Trulieve’s licensed business."

Thirteen of Trulieve's 27 businesses have already opened, with a 14th on the way. The remaining 13 site applications "are deemed approved … and simply need to pass a DOH compliance inspection when ready to begin operation," according to the suit.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said in a statement that the limits hurt patients' ability to access medical marijuana and drives up cost for them and for the business.

“The restrictions force us to use extremely expensive long-distance delivery and build dispensaries on a model based on geographic distribution, not where patients live,” River said. “This not only restricts access to patients in need, but forces higher prices.”

Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said the agency is unsure yet how the case will affect its implementation of the dispensary caps in the law, but suggested that the legal dispute might play a substantial role.

"The implementation of Amendment 2 and Senate Bill 8A [the implementing law] continues to be frequently litigated," she wrote in a statement. "While some of these lawsuits have a less direct impact on department operations, others – particularly those regarding the constitutionality of SB 8A – have significant impact on our ability to implement the law."

The agency has already been under fire for delays in implementing swaths of the medical marijuana law, and it has cited ongoing litigation as a reason for the delays. According to an update released from the agency's Office of Medical Marijuana Use last week, the Department of Health is named in eight other marijuana-related lawsuits.

Photo: Tampa Bay Times

July 06, 2017

John Morgan on gov's race: 'I don't have to make my decision until horses are coming down the stretch'

John Morgan July 2017@MaryEllenKlas

Armed with Florida name ID and deep enough pockets to self-finance a run for office, Orlando attorney John Morgan said Thursday he is in no hurry to decide whether to run for governor in 2018.

"I'm going to think about it,'' he said, after filing a lawsuit challenging the law the Florida Legislature passed implementing the medical marijuana amendment he bankrolled. The legislature wrote the law to prohibit smoking as a medical use.

"I see no advantage for me announcing today or any time close to today,'' he told reporters. "All the people that have announced are doing things that I would hate to be doing -- which would be having coffee clutches, and bull-shitting people, and telling everybody what they want to hear no matter what the position is in the clutch and raising money."

Morgan, a Democrat who owns race horses, said he has nearly a year before he must decide.

"I'm going to have the advantage to let the race take off, come all the way around, and I don't have to make a decision until the horses are all coming down the stretch. Wouldn't you love to bet that way? You could make a lot of money."

Morgan chided the Legislature and House speaker for prohibiting smoking when they allowed for the implementation of medical marijuana in Florida, giving him yet another platform on which to spread his name recognition.

"I told Richard Corcoran the worst thing you could do to boost me is to limit smoke,'' he said.

He said he is now drafting another amendment initiative that will earn him more free media -- raising the Florida minimum wage -- and is will start collecting signatures this year, get the language before the Florida Supreme Court next year, and have it ready for the 2020 election ballot, another presidential election year.

"I learned a lot of lessons in this process,'' he said. "I know how to do it and I know that a presidential election year is better than an off-year election."

He said that he has hired former House speaker and constitutional law expert Jon Mills at Boies Shiller to draft the wage amendment.

"Whether you're a Bernie Sanders voter or a Donald Trump voter, what people were really mad about was that people get up every day, they do all the right things, they work their asses off and they come home and they're worse off than when they left the door,'' he said. "The reason that is is because they are not paid fairly."

He mentioned the food bank his law firm built as part of the Second Harvest food network in Orlando, called the Morgan & Morgan Hunger Relief Center. It feeds 250,000 people a month.

"The people who come there are not homeless. It's the working poor,'' Morgan said. "It's people who come in uniforms, coming from Winn Dixie or Wal-Mart and service stations and service trucks, to basically ask for free food. That's wrong."

He hasn't determined how high to set the minimum wage. "I've got to figure out what will pass,'' he said.

Meanwhile, his lawsuit filed Thursday, quickly drew criticism. 

Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes federal funding of marijuana research, blasted Morgan lawsuit against the state as “nothing more than a smokescreen designed to bypass the FDA and open the doors to a new for-profit, retail commercial marijuana industry in Florida.”

Morgan, who has indicated an interest in investing $100 million in a medical marijuana dispensary, didn't hesitate with an answer.

"I wake up everyday and my 100 percent effort is to make money -- and lots of it,'' he said. "And I'm never going to apologize for that."

He said he was about to board his private plane, fly to his office in Brooklyn "to make money. And I'm going to leave Brooklyn and fly back to Atlanta, to make money, and I'm going to start a new insurance company this year -- to make money. And I'm going to build a new attraction in Branson, Missouri, to make money. And if people want to criticize me for making money, well, they're going to get to criticize me until the day I die because I plan on being a capitalist until the day I die.

"I'm not Mother Teresa. I'm not Pope Francis. I'm John Morgan and I describe myself as a compassionate capitalist."

Can you make money as governor?

"I don't think you can,'' he answered.

John Morgan sues to invalidate marijuana implementation because it forbids smoking for medical use

Cannabis samples Juste@MaryEllenKlas

Arguing that Florida legislators violated voters’ intent when they prohibited smoking for the medical use of marijuana, the author of the state's medical marijuana amendment sued the state on Thursday to throw out the implementing law.

John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who spearheaded and financed the successful campaign to make medical access to cannabis a constitutional right, filed the lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court Thursday morning, asking the court to declare the law implementing the 2016 constitutional amendment unenforceable.

“Inhalation is a medically effective and efficient way to deliver Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids, to the bloodstream,” wrote Morgan and his lead lawyer, Jon Mills, a constitutional lawyer and former Democratic House speaker, on behalf of Florida for Care Inc., the non-profit formed to promote the initiative.“By redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use' to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of ‘a licensed Florida physician’ and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” the lawsuit states.

More than 71 percent of Florida voters approved the amendment in November 2016, the largest percentage of support a medical marijuana initiative has received by popular vote.

The lawsuit argues that the amendment does not prohibit smoking but instead contemplates that smoking would be authorized because it allows the state to prohibit smoking of marijuana for medical purposes in public places.

“The statement unambiguously says that smoking medical marijuana in a private place in compliance with the provisions of the amendment is legal,” the suit states. Story here, 

Photo: In this January 2016 file photo, samples of cannabis are tested for purity inside Modern Health Concepts, a South Florida dispensary for medical marijuana that is producing medicine inside its Redland plant. CARL JUSTE Miami Herald

April 25, 2017

With medical marijuana bills headed to floor votes, final deal won't have public comment



Lawmakers say they're getting close to agreement on sweeping legislation on how to put voter-mandated medical marijuana into effect. But the details of a deal -- and how it might impact patient access -- are still unclear.

Instead of unveiling the deal to be vetted by House and Senate committees this week, legislators plan to put it forward for full vote by the two chambers, likely next week.

That would likely come in the form of a complete rewrite of the legislation subject to an up-or-down vote on the floor of the House and Senate.

What it means for advocates and activists is this: There won't be an opportunity for public comment on the details of the final plan, which is being arranged by bill sponsors behind closed doors.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, who sponsored the Senate's medical marijuana bill (SB 406), said he's "comfortable" with the amount of public input there has been.

"I don't think that there's anything left to be said that hasn't been said already," Bradley said. "We've heard loud and clear people's concerns about access and about making sure that the product is safe and that there are options to recievie medical marijuana, and we're responding to those concerns."

In the House and Senate, lawmakers gave medical marijuana legislation three public hearings, where comment was often limited to ensure packed committee agendas could be finished.

By the end of those meetings, the competing bills had in many ways become less similar.

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who sponsored the House bill (HB 1397) said Monday that he is confident some sort of deal will be reached.

"I think our negotiations are going very well," he said, but he noted that "everything is on the table with our bills."

Photo: Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island (Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times)