Back in November, Florida overwhelmingly voted to legalize cannabis in the state for medical use, 71.32% to 28.68%. The people had spoken and now the job fell on the newly minted Florida Legislature to decide the framework for the new medical cannabis system in the state.
Now, as we reach the middle of the 2nd quarter of 2017, it seems as though the conservative legislature feels it is their duty to limit the will of the people and set up a more restrictive system than most voters had in mind. The legislative session ends in just a few weeks, on May 5th and the government is supposed to have a plan by June and issuing medical marijuana cards by September.
Current State of Florida Medical Marijuana
As it stands now, in mid to late April, Tallahassee has been circulating two proposals on the cannabis issue and neither is very close to actually being agreed upon and implementing the system that voters came out to support in November.
The proposal in the Florida Senate, SB 406: Compassionate Use of Low-THC Cannabis and Marijuana, is an obviously play by the government to put highly restrictive elements into the level of THC in cannabis and the conditions that even qualify, to begin with. This plan would also require large sums of money in government oversight to create a branch of the Department of Health that needs to become cannabis testing experts and test each strain sold at one of the few dispensaries the law would allow.
The real problem is SB 406 is by far the less restrictive bill. The Florida House Bill, HB 1397: Medical Use of Marijuana, seeks to ban smokeable cannabis, edibles and vaping. The bill also would put strict limits on the number of growers who are able to provide cannabis, which will most likely lead to a veritable monopoly and limited supply for patients.
The restrictive nature of this bill would basically render the entire system useless from the start. It seems like that is the will of the government in a nutshell, they are looking to cut the legs out from under the medical marijuana industry in Florida before it gets started.
Activists Continue to Push For Change
But, pro-cannabis activists in the state have taken this opportunity to stand up and fight back consistently against the more restrictive house bill. Some advocates have taken the position that the best course of action is to improve SB 406 and try to get it as close as possible to what voters supported in November. Other cannabis supporters feel as though both bills will be highly regressive versions of the law that are not in the spirit of the vote and go against the will of the people.
While legislators may feel as though limiting medical cannabis in Florida will be a victory in their legislative session, they may end up hurting in the ballot box in the next election from the 71% of people who voted for medical cannabis. Only time will tell, but for now, the future of medical cannabis in Florida does not look bright.