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Medical Marijuana: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

May 3, 2017 - 8:30am

The Florida House yesterday overwhelmingly passed HB 1397, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues’ bill on implementing medical marijuana.

HB 1397 is now much closer to the SB 406, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, who’s been leading the charge on all forms of medical marijuana for the last three years.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good is that the House has passed a bill that can be compromised with the Senate bill so the Legislature can fulfill its obligation to reasonably implement Amendment 2.

The 81-page bill has plenty of regulations to ensure Floridians who have a medical necessity for access to physician-recommended medical marijuana will indeed be able to get access.

The bad is that the House has given in to the proponents, and has agreed to allowing up to 10 more growers by next year about this time.
Smart Justice has consistently said more growers will be needed, but we’ve wanted the number to increase along with the number of patients, not set on a time-certain schedule.

With only about 2,000 patients signing up on the Medical Marijuana Registry at the University of Florida School of Pharmacy each month, it will take quite a few years before the patient numbers justify 10 new growers.

So, as long as the number of Florida-based physicians willing to go into a marijuana practice remains somewhat limited, patient growth will be curtailed accordingly.

Of course, the proponents will contend the $1,000 fee and now the four-hour medical course, which Smart Justice opposed lowering from the current eight-hour requirement, is the limiting factor that keeps more doctors from joining the ranks, when in fact, it’s that most doctors aren’t willing to have the stigma attached to their current practice simply to recommend medical marijuana.

And the stigma isn’t so much from the public -- at least for the time being -- but from their peers in the medical profession.

Part of it is due to the horrific experience and reputation that Florida incurred from the "pill mill" crisis, which resulted in a staggering number of deaths due to opioid pain killers.  And part of it is because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, according to the feds.

Having cited opioids, it’s interesting that freshman Rep. Carlos Smith would equate marijuana to being less dangerous than opioids in his comments during the floor debate.  He said, “Would we rather have them use dangerous prescription drugs … or would we prefer that they smoke a bowl and go to sleep and actually wake up the next morning.?”

The answer is no, but it’s not that simple.  To think that med marijuana smokers are going to smoke and then simply go to sleep is naïve at best.  Many smokers may get into their cars and then get on the road, where Russian Roulette will have much more dangerous consequences.
Think I’m exaggerating?  It was just announced last week that for the first time in history, fatal traffic accidents by drug users has eclipsed alcoholic drivers.  Or, they may take a walk in Florida, the most dangerous state for pedestrians.

No question that opioids are much more dangerous, especially the ones obtained illegally on the street, the ones now often laced with fentanyl or even worse, carfentanil.

The ugly is that the House also agreed to allow an unlimited number of dispensaries for each of the current growers, and any new growers in the future.

This doesn’t make any sense.  The Senate has limited retail shops to three for each grower, and Sen. Rob Bradley has acknowledged in previous testimony in committee that three is probably too low -- but it was acceptable as a number to start with.

If the choice is between three and infinity, then I hope the number is closer to the Senate’s position. That number must increase to provide the access that patients need, but a reasonable number is better than an unlimited number.

Ben Pollara, a leading proponent, is predicting a disaster -- because the House bill “puts profits over patient access,” without any evidence that patients are indeed not getting the access they deserve.

Pollara went on to say, again without any evidence, that “prices will be high, quality will be low, and choices will be few.  Patients will be driven to the black market.”

Understandably, prices are going to be high in the beginning because the supply hasn’t fully ramped up.  In fact, not all the seven designated growers are even growing marijuana at this point, so yes, the price will be as high as it is for any medicine when it's first introduced.

The assertion that the quality will be low is another figment of Ben’s imagination.

The growers have testified that the growing and processing of this plant is an exact science and the fact that there must be a medical director on board, and with all the other regulations, it’s a fantasy that the marijuana will be of low quality.  

Law enforcement has documented that marijuana today is much more concentrated than ever before, certainly much more than in the days when I smoked pot.

The fact that both the THC, CBD and the turpenes will be closely monitored -- and labeled -- indicates the medicine part of marijuana will be very exact if for no other reason than recommending physicians and the state will demand consistent product ingredients so they can ascertain what benefits, if any, the drug will provide.

The Legislature will pass a bill and send it to the governor for his review.  While the Legislature hasn’t done everything that Smart Justice would have liked, they’ve nevertheless done an excellent job. Finally putting science before policy will make Florida a leader among the states.

Barney Bishop III is the President & CEO of Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a right-of-center, law enforcement-centric non-profit dedicated to rational criminal justice reform.  He can be reached at


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I thank God that you are not in 24 hour chronic pain, can't work, and have been on Vicodin ES for thirty years. It probably accounts for your opposition to fully implementing the will of the people. You would understand then...but I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Let them play their politics in Tallahassee and just remember them all at the polls! It's the only thing that means anything to anyone of them! This is the biggest display of greed and misrepresentation in this states history. The Big Pharms. are paying out monster paychecks to get have their way along with the many politicians that are on the inside of this thing. Makes you wonder if a Clinton is not involved.

They're all Republicans idiot!

No acceptable. Not a true implementation of A2. Barney is a bought and paid for mouthpiece for propagandists and prohibitionists. Medical Cannabis has a history going back thousands of years. Every major culture used it. Instead of dangerous, addictive and deadly opiates, cannabis should be the go-to for pain. Every cancer patient should be taking it, immediately. Restricting access is not what we fought for. Implement A2 as intended or suffer the consequences.

You are an idiot.

Look in the mirror and say it.....'You're an Idiot!'

Floridian need to understand the coy behavior of their Congress. They have handcuffed the Drs.. They have installed fear of prosecution in the gatekeepers. Good luck in getting a prescription. Florida's Government realizes that citizens won't realize what they have done for at least a year or so.

To the physicians and naysayers who question the medicinal use, or benefit of cannabis, do some research on, National Cancer Institute web page,, the research coming out of Israel where they have a full blown medical marijuana program, which allows cannabis sales through the local pharmacy. Are there any doctors, lobbyists, or law makers who care to call Israel names regarding their research and medical marijuana program? What is odd is even Mel Sembler, himself Jewish, a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, has never said one disparaging word, ever, about Israel’s medical marijuana program even as he lobbies President Trump to send millions to Israel. Israel is light years ahead of America on research. Speaking of research there are over 20 pharmaceutical firms developing cannabis based drugs. We know for a fact that GW Pharmaceutical’s CBD oil called Epidiolex stops seizures in children. Barney, are you opposed to stopping seizures in children? Do you feel they should suffer even after $1 million Florida tax dollars went to the University of Florida program with the results showing the children’s quality of life improved if they had epilepsy and took the oil? Our children deserve every chance we can give them if it improves their life. Personally, I am tired of certain Florida law makers, lobbyists, and sheriffs claim cannabis has no value, yet they do nothing regarding personal research, reading, or even attempting to understand the subject matter. Those people are irresponsible, ignorant, and will watch others suffer for the sake of winning their argument regardless of the science. That is the biggest sin you could ever commit.

Thank you! I hope that Barney can see the inhumanity of his views.

WELL SAID - and you are very correct that Israel is FAR ahead in Research in MANY areas! Our federal Class 1 drug has not been, to the best of my knowledge been addressed in D.C. - rather absurd in my opinion. As time goes by, I become far less trusting in our Florida Legislature, as well.

As with 'our' bunch in Tallahassee, where NONE can be trusted, so goes Washington D.C., a much more corrupt and incentive driven group. REMEMBER these crooks at election time!

Locating the research on cannabis and the medicinal qualities is relatively easy providing the searcher of knowledge is in fact making seeking information. The Israeli Sackler Faculty of Medicine along with the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies and Sagol School of neuroscience in Tel Aviv are conducting studies using cannabinoids from cannabis. The goals of their program are to track the cannabinoids and their effects on the brain with regard to dementia and tramatic brain injuries (TBI). Pharmaceutical firm Kannalife, located in Pennsylvania, has a licence with the U.S. Department of Health to use their medical marijuana patent to develop cannabis derived drugs to treat the brain. Imagine that, our government that says cannabis has no medical value, has a medical marijuana patent, has licensed that patent, is receiving yearly license fees in the thousands, is in fact in the medical marijuana business. In addition, pharmaceutical firm Nemus BioScience has an exclusive business arrangement with the DEA managed University of Mississippi cannabis program to develop cannabis based drugs to treat glaucoma and psoriasis. Then we have Barney Bishop. Certain doctors in the Florida House, who claim cannabis has no medicinal value.

And those doctors also have absolutely no medicinal value, like old man Bishop, who has no value at all.

Barney by adding more license holder we create competition, drive down prices, and provide incentives to improve processes and quality. This is simple supply and demand economics. You of course know this, but for the sake of argument it is convenient and to your point to leave out the supply and demand model. Perhaps the new growers will actively do something about patient and physician acquisition by spending money to educate the public vice doling out thousands of dollars to lobbyists and lawyers, which Costa, Trulieve, and Surterra have been doing for months. Oh, by the way not one of these large license holders gave one thin dime to the passage of amendment two, but there they are riding the A2 train. Reagrding the pill mill crisis…please…where were the law makers when the pharmaceutical companies were running about Florida saying opiates are not addictive, pushing them at patients, collecting billions of dollars, and now are doing absolutely nothing to clean up their mess. Fatal traffic accidents by drug users? Again, you know that metabolites, the waste product from cannabis use, can stay in your body for weeks post last use. If you test a person’s blood and state you were high during that accident that is disingenuous and wrong and you know it. Currently, the prices are high due to limited license holders, some holding off on growing, waiting for patient numbers to creep up (Chicken and the egg) until they begin growing. The seven license holders can afford to wait. There is no competition. Barney once again, supply and demand. Regarding medical benefits anyone with a computer can launch a browser, go to or clinicaltrails.gog or Google Scholar, quickly search on cannabinoids and see the medical research on cannabis cannabinoids. Israel is now doing clinical research using cannabinoids against cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s disease, and other ailments. When you or these “doctors” in the house question the medical benefits of cannabinoids it just makes you look ignorant and backward.

It's a shame we don't test drivers for Benadryl and other over-the-counter sedating medications that are likely responsible for many traffic accidents and fatalities. I for one will not participate in this bureaucratic mess to get a mmj card. I will continue like many others to utilize the black market like I have for the past 17 years since the bill will not allow access to patients with chronic pain unless it's from one of the listed debilitating conditions.

Barney, you very old fart, your credability has fallen to a newer all time low!

see your previous post Bonehead... Perhaps you should smoke some and get off the Repub teet....

"IC" you aren't man enough.....

Idiot Checker lives way down to his handle. Idiot!

your Mom

NOT just the "Repub teet", but ALL governmental employees in the legislature, get 'em off the public's teats!

See, you "smoked" cannabis when you were younger and look at what a nice person you turned out to be. Thank GOD that you did not get caught and sent to jail.

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