Sen. Jeff Brandes is taking on Florida’s medical marijuana industry in a big way, proposing a total recall of all the state’s marijuana laws and overhauling the system with an entirely new set of regulations.
On Wednesday, Brandes filed SB 614, which would repeal Florida’s medical marijuana laws. Earlier this month, the state implemented Amendment 2, which legalizes medical marijuana for patients with “debilitating” medical conditions in the Sunshine State.
The St. Petersburg Republican, an outspoken advocate for medical pot, says his new proposal is designed to encourage more participation from medical marijuana providers.
“The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate that Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana,” Brandes explained.
The state’s current laws, Brandes explained, aren’t the right choice for Florida’s booming medical marijuana industry.
“The laws on the books today promote a state-sanctioned cartel system that limits competition, inhibits access, and results in higher prices for patients,” he said. “Florida should focus on what is best for patients.”
Brandes’ law would eliminate the statutory caps on Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers and establish four new types of function licenses for MMTCs.
MMTCs would have cultivation, processing, transportation and retail licenses and could possess any license or a combination of multiple function licenses. Under current law, retail licenses are permitted on a population basis of one license per 25,000 residents in every county.
Local governments still have a great deal of power in the medical marijuana since they can prohibit retail facilities in their jurisdiction.
Voters overwhelmingly favored Amendment 2 in November, passing the measure with 71 percent of the vote.
Florida implemented Amendment 2 earlier this month, but the rollout of the industry has been riddled with uncertainties since the state will need to revise the rules and regulations about current dispensing laws.
The state legislature and the Florida Department of Health still have six months to revise the current dispensing rules and have up to nine months to implement those rules, which could throw a wrench into the state's newest prescription drug.
The road to dispensing medical marijuana has already been full of roadblocks, particularly from cities and local governments trying to fight off the medical pot business.
Cities and counties around the state have expressed fears over medical pot shops popping up in commercial zones and school zones, though it is uncertain just how many dispensaries will be built statewide.
Pasco and Manatee Counties have both said they want bans on the drug and other counties, like Hillsborough, already have a ban in place until April. Local governments are also cracking down on the drug -- Panama City Beach officials have said they want an all-out ban of growing, cultivation and dispensing of the drug for eight months while city and county staff studied the activities.
Medical marijuana supporters say Brandes’ bill is a step in the right direction for the future of pot in Florida.
“Sen. Brandes’ bill does an excellent job of establishing acomprehensive, tightly regulated medical marijuana system in Florida,” said United For Care campaign manager Ben Pollara on Wednesday. “The two most essential pieces of implementation are maintaining the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and expanding the marketplace to serve patient access. SB 614 does both in a well-regulated, well thought out manner.”
To view the bill’s full text, click here.