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Politics

Pro-Medical Marijuana Lobby Killed Bill, Insiders Say

May 5, 2017 - 11:00pm

Legislation to regulate Florida’s growing medical marijuana industry is officially dead in Tallahassee, but some say one of the biggest groups pushing to pass the bill ironically is the one responsible for killing it off.

State lawmakers couldn’t reach an agreement over a legislative proposal to regulate medical cannabis in time for the end of the legislative session, which has already been extended until Monday.

It’s now up to the Department of Health to figure out how to regulate the state’s medical marijuana industry before July 3. 

Until late Friday, it appeared to be smooth sailing for the future of medical cannabis. On Thursday, the Florida Senate passed an amended version of the House medical pot bill, which was chock full of changes, but lawmakers seemed hopeful they’d have a finished product in time for the end of session.

Among the proposed changes in the amended Senate bill: limiting growers to opening up five retail facilities, an alteration from the House version, which previously allowed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) to open unlimited facilities. 

The delete-all amendment would have allowed the Department of Health to grant 10 new licenses before October 1st and would add five new licenses for every 75,000 patients.

Earlier this week, the Florida House of Representatives green-lighted its version of a proposal to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry after the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, filed a lengthy strike-all amendment to the legislation early Tuesday morning. 

Rodrigues overhauled HB 1397 in a last-minute amendment which spanned 82 pages and made several suggestions and changes to dispensing, labeling and the overall provisions of the medical marijuana industry.

Things didn't stay all sunshine and roses for long, though.

Legislators haggled over the bill into the late hours Friday evening, disagreeing on exactly how many retail facilities MMTCs should be able to open. 

Rodrigues proposed upping the number to 100 dispensaries, but the Senate said that number was too high.

Sources close to the legislative process told Sunshine State News one of the real enemies of passing the legislation ended up being the group which had worked so hard to approve Amendment 2 in the first place: United For Care and its legislative arm, Florida For Care.

It was Florida For Care, they said, which pushed the issue of limiting the number of dispensaries for growers at the last minute in order to force the state to issue more licenses to get rid of medical marijuana “cartels," the original seven growers allowed to dispense the drug across the state.

At the 11th hour, insiders said, Florida For Care lobbyists Frank and Tracy Mayernick put pressure on Senate President Joe Negron over the cap numbers to ultimately force the state to issue more licenses and break up the seven original medical cannabis growers. 

The House retreated to a position of having 100 caps, but Negron wouldn’t budge. 

Without a final vote, lawmakers sent HB 1397 to the legislative boneyard. 

Florida For Care executive director Ben Pollara told Sunshine State News the group had long pushed for caps on the number of storefronts and instead blamed the seven growers’ lobbyists for killing off the bill.

“The cartel's position was unlimited dispensaries for themselves and their investors,” Pollara told Sunshine State News. “Their lobbying team, led by Michael Corcoran, was very successful at holding that position. They got what they wanted and the bill died.”

Pollara said he told lobbyists to get any version of the bill off the ground before the clock ran out.

“My instructions to my lobbying team today were to get a bill - any bill - passed,” he said.

Ironically, the idea of putting a cap on the number of storefronts was a product of an amendment from former Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned from the legislature just two weeks ago. 

House lawmakers could hardly believe their hard work had been for naught.

"If I were a voter I would be very disappointed," said Rep. Rodrigues.

Key figures involved in passing Amendment 2, like Orlando attorney John Morgan, were furious legislators couldn’t come to an agreement over the bill.

“My #ArmyOfAngels will be shocked to learn of the person responsible for this deadlock!” Morgan tweeted late Friday evening.

Other legislators blamed the Senate leadership for letting the bill go to waste -- all over the number of storefronts. 

“We tried our darndest and it’s a shame the Senate chose to kill this over caps on storefronts,” bill co-author Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, told SSN Friday evening. “That’s a really tough position to defend -- that they would blow this up and cause patients to wait any longer than they have to ... is unconscionable and inexcusable and the failure lies solely with Senate Leadership.”

State lawmakers had been hoping to reach some kind of agreement over medical marijuana for months after Amendment 2 passed with a 71 percent approval in November.

Axed in the state Legislature, medical marijuana is now months further away for Florida’s sick patients.

 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

 

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

 

 

Comments

Now it is up to the Department of Health. How will the corrupt politicians bully and intimidate their will on the DOH to subvert the will of the people? We must be vigilant and voice our opinion on the intent of amendment 2. On October 2015 the DOH released Florida Department of Health “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions” Constitutional Amendment Analysis, google it then contact the DOH to follow it's own recommendations, 1,900 MMTC to adequately serve Floridians. We need free markets with local control of the who, what, where and how of the medical marijuana treatment centers.

You just sound like the want to get in the business. Florida is a southern state with a bunch of conservatives with control. They will not allow open markets just like the won't allow home grows. Look at every state that has gone medical in the last 2 years and they all have caps on growers and control how many people get into the business. So good luck with that. I'm sure if there are new licenses the people getting them probably know about it already. The government has kept this illegal for over 50 years to all of a sudden allow home grows and give everything that the people want. Not going to happen. Baby steps and I appreciate we are finally moving in the right direction. I expect within the next 7-10years the whole country will be legal.

It took Hawaii 17 years to get the first dispensary up and running since the people voted for medical marijuana. That in itself is exactly what voters are sick of. The fact that the two parties continue to NOT make progress on any issue is hopefully going to be their undoing. It's time that the government, the federal government in particular, remember who it is that the construction was designed to restrain and restrict the powers of.

I don't understand why we have to reinvent the wheel. Several other states have medical marijuana which allow patients to grow and smoke It.. for the idiots ignoring the will of the people and patients only ​to force patients​ to wait 90 days for medicine and to tell them how to use their medicine (vape or edibles) is truly none of their damn business! I plan to sue.. every one reading this living in Florida can too. Lets send these fools a message that such blatant disregard for the people will not be tolerated! We need some heroes to help all the sick people dying everyday without this miracle medicine. Morgan and Morgan! For the weed people!

Sign me up! There is so much money to be made in this "business" it has become paralyzation by analyzation. Meantime, one can go to any number of neighborhood dispensaries called Pharmacies to get their opioid based life changing , brain numbing, family wrecking pain killers. I must be missing something here but every time the Gov't gets involved, things go into chaos. Just decriminalize it for small amounts, put harsher penalties for anyone caught selling it to minors and lets' move on to more important things! OMG!!!!!!!!

I don't understand why we have to reinvent the wheel. Several other states have medical marijuana which allow patients to grow and smoke It.. for the idiots ignoring the will of the people and patients only ​to force patients​ to wait 90 days for medicine and to tell them how to use their medicine (vape or edibles) is truly none of their damn business! I plan to sue.. every one reading this living in Florida can too. Lets send these fools a message that such blatant disregard for the people will not be tolerated! We need some heroes to help all the sick people dying everyday without this miracle medicine. Morgan and Morgan! For the weed people!

I agree. The baseline laws are successful in other states. This law was seriously flawed and should have died.

Run Morgan Run. Morgan is one of the state's most accomplished trial lawyers...he built the largest personal injury practice in the U.S., and who has stood up to big insurance and big money interests for the benefit of everyday consumers. Tallahassee is broken. Morgan is above the fray. This is that man for the job. Governor John Morgan.

Complaining about what has happened will only help us change things in the long run. What we need to do is what can change things now and that is if we all send our demands to the only group that can make a difference right now, that being the Department of Health, in whose hands the immediate changes now all lie. All they really have to do, at this point, to be fair, is to take all points, that were non-contested in both the Senate and the Houses bills are put them into their "bill". There is nothing in the Amendment that was voted on by the 71% that said "no smoking of the marijuana. Maybe they will go along with the people. As Attorney John Morgan stated, It was specifically stated that smoking would be prohibited in PUBLIC places. The only reason to place that statement in there was if it was to be assumed (as the voters did assume) that smoking it in private areas would be allowed. If a law was made to allow transport of coffee across state lines EXCEPT in blue bags, you would have to assume that bags of any other color would be okay. So demand that the Department of Health use common sense to implement Amendment 2. Both Houses agreed to the new list of diagnoses that would be accepted including Chronic non-malignant pain, so let's make sure that the new regulations set forth by the Department of Health includes them all. And finally, let us make sure that the 90 day waiting period presently in the regulations is removed and the agreed upon 70 day certification period is approved since both houses agreed on that as well. From there we can worry about the politics of the dispensaries, other than the fact that presently, with only 7 dispensaries approved patients in the majority of areas (such as Jacksonville, with over one million population) have to pay at least $25 for delivery of their approved marijuana.

I would like a list of the politicians and the amendments they tried to add to this bill. For example, who was it that tried to make it a condition that we can't eat it, vape it or smoke it. People like that are the politicians that have got to go. Rick Scott is not following the will of the voters and neither are the rest of them. I want a list that we can remember and blast out when election time comes around. ...This is BS.

I've worked for years for this to pass I believe at this point our only hope is John Morgan.

Our only hope is you and me. With all respect, I refuse to put this burden on one mans back. If we could start some kind of fund me campaign, where we could gather enough money and power to unseat those bastards.

This shows that our only option is ANOTHER Constitutional Amendment that totally legalizes Cannabis with Grow Your Own option. The language must be specific and declare that the morons in Tallahassee have no input into implementation . Petitions are out there, get one and sign it.

Please consider supporting Florida's campaign to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and spread the word about the petition at regulateflorida.com This detailed proposed amendment leaves little to the lawmakers in Tallahassee and protects the rights of adults over 21. ;-)

2020 Recreational Marijuana Please help United for Care. The only way to get the lawmen to stop prosecution is full legalization, let the people grow there own. Florida citizens are being attacked daily by officers who are supposed to be protecting them. Marijuana is not an oil. Marijuana is not a cookie or a brownie. Marijuana is a plant. Stop the Republican crime wave. Full recreational legalization 2020.

Florida has no "Republican crime wave"... more like a "Another Drain-the-Swamp" of FL Legislators.

We passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana. Legislators failed, now let's push to get everything we want. We must demand this from our Health Dept. Let's do what's right and make it as accessible as we can. Home cultivation, unlimited growers/dispensaries, extraction and edibles, we need it all. I want to juice my cannabis daily so I can receive proper nutrition from this plant. The time is NOW!

Just more corrupt politicians subverting the will of the people in favor of illegal drug cartels and corporate interests. Some of our lawmakers and politicians are crooked and would rather serve criminals and corporations rather than the will of the people they're elected to serve. What scares them is losing the money from international corporations for private prisons, alcoholic beverages and pharmaceutical drugs currently lining their pockets and keeping them in office. Figures from the Center for Disease Control on numbers of deaths per year in the USA: * Prescription Drugs: 237,485 + 5000 traffic fatalities * Tobacco: 390,323 * Alcohol: 88,013 + 16,000 traffic fatalities * Cocaine: 4,906 * Heroin: 7,200 * Aspirin: 466 * Acetaminophen (Tylenol): 179 * Marijuana: 0, none, not a single fatal overdose in all medical history and almost no traffic problems. So, which is safer???? Legalize, regulate and TAX!

U Think Theyv,e Had This All Planned Out...

Opiates shall remain king in Florida even longer, now. State government continues to work against the will of the people, while working in favor of corporate interests. Time will tell if Floridians ever wake up and vote the parasites out of office.

I like it, John Morgan for Governor or AG. Good to hear he is still weighing in on this shameful debacle. When is the next gubernatorial election?

Vote them all out. The 71% should just vote for legalization and the right to grow your own. I don't think some out of touch politician should be in the loop of what is good for me. My doctor and I can handle it.

Actually this is how to break up the cartels, delaying legislation! They've already invested money in greenhouses and storefront outlets. Now that their loan payments begin with no sales money coming, they have to break up (maybe).

Voters gave Lawmakers a mandate by having 71% vote Yes. Instead, Lawmakers played politics as usual and allowed DFAF, the bad losers, to make policy. This is their fault. Nothing they were doing fit with A2. We will remember.

If the Florida Senate, House or health department wants to Control who or how “PATIENTS” can use Cannabis and not leave it up to the individual and their doctor the only thing I can say is they should be held liable for every needless death in the state of Florida. FACT’S : overdose deaths 2013 state of Florida, 2,474. Overdose deaths 2014 State of Florida 2,634 increase of 160 deaths. NOTE: CDC does not show yet OD Deaths for 2015 to present. I am sure the number is increasing. “UPDATE” Jacksonville Florida ABC Sun Coast News May 2017. Reported 544 people died of overdose deaths in Jacksonville alone. They also investigated the claim “Finding It to be True” that states that instituted a medical marijuana program saw a significant decline in the number of OVERDOSE DEATHS and prescription drugs issued through the Medicare program. (also see New study by University of Georgia researchers. The study, led by W. David Bradford and published in the journal Health Affairs) WE ARE NOT TALKING about JUNKIES or HIPPIES HERE We are talking about SENIORS “MEDICARE PROGRAM” GRANDMOTHERS AND GRANDFATHERS. IF ABC Sun Coast News did a follow-up story they would find that most of the States that had the more Liberal Laws had the best Results in combating the Narcotic Epidemic. NBC NEWS MAY 4 2017 ” Rick Scott governor of Florida has officially declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency”. The article also states “Scott had been under increasing pressure from lawmakers to do something about the epidemic”. BUT THE SAME LAWMAKERS Played the MONEY GAMES with The best answer to combat Addiction and show it’s compassion “FOR THE PEOPLE”. Instead it’s all about, campaign donations, greed, Prohibitionists, Florida’s Cartel Nursery’s, drug company’s and a well known Florida food and drug chain…. the list goes on. I am just an old Farm Boy and was taught that hard work and common sense would always get me through LIFE. The one thing that I remember on our living room wall was a picture of a cow standing on its own teat with tears in It’s eyes. The caption on the picture read “DON’T JUST STAND THERE DO SOMETHING” Except for a minute minority, Sen. Jeff Clemens and Sen. Jeff Brandies come to mind. AS FOR THE REST OF OUR LAWMAKERS, I DON’T THINK THEY HAVE ANYMORE BRAINS THAN A COW STANDING ON IT’S OWN TEAT. To John Morgan; Start the Lawsuits and make sure I get one of the first YARD SIGNS that read, JOHN MORGAN FOR GOVERNOR “A GOVERNOR FOR THE PEOPLE”

I hope John Morgan runs for Attorney General. Anybody can be Governor, look at our current one. To become AG the candidate must be an attorney. And a pro-cannabis AG would be good.

I see that Washington D.C. isn't the only Swamp full of alligators. The voters will remember this at the next election.

The anti Pot drug free Florida or whatever they are calling themselves and the legislature are to blame. We want pot to be widely and easily available to those who need it................. And needs smoking as a method as the safest, self limiting way................... Every one who slowed or put stupid amendments on this is going to hear from the 71% this in a special session if needed if the don't pass during regular session.............. I guess like much of their BS, now a judge will have to do it............................ Let's remember pot is proven one of the safest things on earth. There has never been a pot poisoning so get over it and pass this bill that makes it widely available from many sources....................I'm more than ready to stop using Vicodan which like most opioids they just changed the Heroin molecule just enough to get a patent.................... So get me and likely a million other people of Florida get off these drugs and on to something far safer, Pot for pain.

I feel like it's time for 71 percent of Florida to be heard no matter how hard these bureaucrates try to delay things so there friends with licenses can get a better foothold on the industry! Let's read between the lines people!!!!

BS... You can't blame one group for this. This was a total failure of or legislators to put something together that met the constitution. Blaming an outside group just continues to give elected officials excuses to not do their jobs.... see ya in court.

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