Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam says the time is now for Florida to hold a special session on medical marijuana. Earlier this week Putnam added his name to the growing list of lawmakers and politicians who say the issue is too important for lawmakers to let go -- but not everyone is convinced Putnam's motives are pure.
On Tuesday, Putnam took a swipe at state legislators for failing to reach an agreement on the bill to implement Amendment 2 earlier this month, saying they need to come back to Tallahassee and get back to work.
“I think that it’s important for the elected officials to have done their job during the regular session,” Putnam said. “Since they didn’t [do their job] I think that a special session is in order because I think that for a constitutional amendment’s implementation, it’s important for the elected officials to do it not the bureaucrats at the Department of Health.”
Putnam spokeswoman Amanda Bevis told Sunshine State News the change of heart was really Putnam simply recognizing the need for state lawmakers to fulfill their duty to the people of Florida.
“Adam Putnam has consistently opposed the expansion of marijuana use in Florida,” she said. “However, recognizing the will of the voters, Commissioner Putnam asserts it is the responsibility of the Legislature to implement this program.”
Some believes Putnam doesn't have the right motivations on medical marijuana, though, and say the past speaks for itself.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who pushed legislation in the Florida House to legalize a low-THC form of medical cannabis in 2014, criticized the Commissioner for only recently hopping on board the medical marijuana train for his political advantage now that he's all in the governor's race.
Gaetz tweeted that Putnam had no desire to join forces and work together on legalizing medical marijuana just three years ago, questioning whether the commissioner's motivations were pure or just a political tactic.
“As Agriculture commish he had no interest in helping w cannabis reform when I asked,” Gaetz tweeted this week. “Now he's running for gov and is full of opinions #weird.”
In 2014, Putnam was a vocal critic of Amendment 2, urging voters to say no to the measure. Putnam trashed cannabis, calling marijuana a “gateway drug.”
State legislators worked for months to hammer out legislation to provide relief to thousands of Floridians suffering from debilitating medical conditions, but they were unable to reach an agreement before the legislative session ended May 9.
Legislators haggled over the bill into the late hours before session ended, disagreeing on exactly how many retail facilities medical marijuana treatment centers should be able to open.
House bill sponsor Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, proposed upping the number to 100 dispensaries, but the Senate said that number was too high.
With no solution in sight, legislators ended up killing off the bill, hanging Floridians waiting for medical marijuana high and dry.
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.
Putnam has now joined scores of other politicians who have said lawmakers need to come back to Tallahassee to figure out medical marijuana once and for all.
Several other gubernatorial candidates and potential candidates like Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando attorney John Morgan, who largely spearheaded Amendment 2 both last year and in 2014.
Other state legislators in leadership positions have also said a special session was necessary.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said earlier this month he wanted lawmakers to figure out a solution as soon as possible.
“I believe there should be a special session on medical marijuana,” he said.
Lawmakers quickly began responding, saying Corcoran was on the right track in his calls for a special session.
“I agree with @richardcorcoran,” Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, wrote earlier this week. “I support a special session to address medical marijuana implementation.”
Gov. Rick Scott or the legislature can convene a special session, but sources within leadership told SSN a special session was "very likely," though a date has not yet been announced.