When Florida voters passed Amendment 2 with a 71 percent approval rate last November, they thought they were getting a widened medical marijuana marketplace that a large new swath of patients could access with less regulatory interference.
But the first set of new regulations proposed Tuesday by the Florida Department of Health would reinforce the preexisting regulatory structure, which allowed only a handful of farms to produce low-THC product for the Florida marketplace.
“I’d say the expected result was what just happened,” California attorney Matt Harrison told Watchdog.org. Harrison helped draft California’s Prop 64, which decriminalized adult use of cannabis in the state.
“In the political reality and how administrative agencies work, it’s very typical that they would do something like that because it’s the whole hammer and nail syndrome, where they would be given this authorization to regulate this new area and they would imagine that it gives them some sort of mandate to do it the exact same way they did it previously.”
Medical marijuana has been a hot topic in Florida for several years. In 2014, a ballot measure very similar to 2016’s successful Amendment 2 failed, but a decriminalization bill passed the legislature: the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. The bill decriminalized low-THC cannabis use for a limited number of patients under strict guidelines. It also allowed for there to be only five carefully regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.
The 2014 bill also established a system in which the marketplace was vertically integrated. Under this structure, someone has to not only grow the product, but process it in-house and sell it.
“I don’t think the amendment calls for or contemplates that it has to be a vertically integrated structure, which is currently being proposed and which we currently operate under,” State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, told Watchdog.