‘Big Weed’ takeover?

Proposed rules favor existing growers


TALLAHASSEE – Authors of Florida’s voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana are blasting proposed rules to regulate the cannabis industry.

Proposed state regulations for the emerging medical marijuana industry favor large politically connected cannabis firms who are already in the game.

The proposed rules, released Tuesday by state health officials, would essentially maintain current vendors’ stranglehold on the medical marijuana industry – poised to become one of the nation’s top money-makers – by applying current Florida laws and rules to the constitutional amendment approved in November.

“The rule is basically ignoring the text of the constitutional amendment at almost every point of the way,” Ben Pollara, campaign manager of the political committee backing the amendment, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Broader application
While medical marijuana was already a legal treatment for terminally ill patients in Florida, Amendment 2 authorized marijuana for a much broader swath of patients. More than 70 percent of voters supported the amendment, after a similar proposal narrowly failed to capture the requisite 60 percent approval two years earlier.

But applying current regulations to Amendment 2 – which includes specific requirements for how the amendment should be implemented – is wrong, Pollara insisted.

Board decision?
Of special concern to the amendment’s authors, the proposed rule would give authority to the Florida Board of Medicine – and not individual doctors – to decide which patients qualify for the marijuana treatment.

The amendment allows doctors to order medical marijuana as a treatment for patients with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

Physicians have authority
The ballot language gives doctors the power to order marijuana for “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

In contrast, the proposed rule would limit the unspecified conditions to those “determined by the Florida Board of Medicine,” something Pollara called the regulation’s “single most problematic” component.

“This is not one of those things that is up for interpretation by a court or anyone else,” Pollara said.

Only 7 vendors
Among other issues, the proposed rule would maintain the state’s current cap on marijuana vendors, limited now to seven licensed “dispensing organizations,” to treat an estimated 500,000 patients who would be eligible under Amendment 2.

While the proposed language may be amenable to the handful of operators already doing business in the state, the plan is anathema to those hoping to gain entree into Florida under Amendment 2’s expansion of the industry.

‘Protecting monopolies’
“It looks like the Department of Health is protecting the existing monopolies. I hope the Legislature chooses to act in creating a free market system. The Legislature has a chance to change that,” said Ron Watson, a lobbyist who represents AltMed, a Sarasota-based company founded by former pharmaceutical industry executives who have obtained a medical marijuana license in Arizona and are seeking one in Florida.

Public hearings set
The health department will hold public hearings to take input on the rule during the second week of February, with meetings in Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee.

Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said state officials “look forward to receiving input from all interested stakeholders” about the proposed rule.

“That’s why we’re having the five public meetings,” supplemented by the ability to provide comments online, she said.

“We look forward to everybody’s contributions,” Gambineri said.

‘Beginning point’
Sen. Rob Bradley, who shepherded the state’s medical-marijuana laws during the 2014 and 2016 legislative sessions, said he intends to release a new measure as early as this week.

“I interpret the actions today from the department as a beginning point, a foundation from which to build the medical cannabis system that we’re going to have in the state of Florida,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida. “I would caution everyone not to overreact to the actions of the department. You have to start somewhere.”

Amendment 2 may have forced health officials to move forward with a proposed rule before the Legislature weighs in. It gives health officials until July 3 to finalize regulations to implement the constitutional change.


  1. The Florida Department of Health sucks. Obvious corruption at play here. I wonder if these criminals posing as “public servants” realize that there are many people who are engaged in this process, and know exactly what they’re doing. Everybody has a boss, and they might be well-advised to watch out for those who may wish to “blow the whistle” on them. They’re so arrogant, though, that they’ll probably still keep going to the well until they’ve run it dry. Or get subpoenaed, I suppose…

  2. Remember that you work for we the people of Florida and we have spoken in record numbers.

    I’ve lived with chronic nerve pain for 29 yrs. I have endured more pain while trying every procedure and every big Pharma drug doctors have thrown at me.
    No American should have to beg for a 100% all natural plant. Cannabis and it’s oils have been around for thousands of years. No one has ever died from taking this weed. And we all know Cannabis works for chronic pain and so many other debilitating conditions.
    I live with Arachnoiditis which is clumping of the spinal nerves. stenosis, neuropathy, severe muscle spasms that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and a host of other debilitating medical conditions that make me eligible for medical marijuana.

    I’m tired of doctors prescribing big Pharma drugs with all their side effects.
    I’m tired of doctors and politicians telling me what I can and can’t do with my body.
    I’m tired of being treated like a second class citizen.
    I’m tired of the DEA and all their lies about marijuana!
    I’m tired of politicians with their own agendas!
    These people were put in office to protect our constitutional rights.

    I’m tired of being lumped in with drug addicts when statistics are made.
    I’m tired of reading all the positive research about marijuana/ cannabis and not being able to benefit from any of it!
    I’m tired of misinformed people trying to take away our rights!

    Most of all I’m tired of chronic pain!
    I want quality of life without the dangerous side effects!
    The people have spoken in record numbers! 70% said YES! Now Just legalize it!

  3. After total removal of my thyroid due to cancer in 2010 I developed fibromyalgia while they were getting my Synthroid adjusted. My condition continued to deteriorate until I left employment in 2012, hoping that some rest would improve my situation. It did not. I am now permanently disabled soon to be on SSDI. Since 2009 I’ve seen countless physicians and been on countless medications. Tests have shown arthritis in my cervical spine, herniated disc in my lumbar spine and fibromyalgia. I want cannabis as an alternative to all of these pharmaceuticals I’m having to take and get off this roller coaster I’ve been on for so long.
    Everyone keeps talking about all the side effects of cannabis, how dangerous and addictive it is, that it’s a gateway to harder drugs. Well I can tell you from personal experience, having been born and raised in this state that I smoked marijuana all through the 70s 80s and 90s until I decided to start a family. Then due to the “war on drugs” I stopped because I had too much to lose, it wasn’t worth losing my child over. BI chased my daughter down trying to make sure she didn’t follow in my footsteps. She grew up, had a child of her own and moved to Colorado due to this very issue. She has worked in the industry from the start and I’m proud of her for that, for standing her ground on this human rights issue.
    They say cannabis kills brain cells. Well let’s see… pathology transcription, court reporter, General Lines 2-20 insurance agent. No, I’m good in the brain cells department. It’s the pharmaceuticals and their side effects that have ruined my life and I have the medical records to prove it. Please follow TO THE LETTER what the citizens voted into the constitution on NOVEMBER 2, 2016. Respectfully,

  4. I was diagnosed of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells, I was given medications to slow down the progress of the disease, after some months my conditioned worsened and i lost ability to go about my daily activities and i had to quit my job, my legs and arms were terribly weakened, i resorted to a wheelchair (Perbombil C300). This was till my husband’s friend introduced my husband to a herbal clinic in South Africa who sell herbal medicines to cure all kind of diseases including ALS, we contacted the herbal clinic via their email and purchased the ALS herbal remedy, we received the herbal medicine via courier within 7 days and commenced usage as prescribed, its totally unexplainable how all the symptoms gradually dissapeared, my speech has greatly improved and am able to walk a distance now with no help, contact this herbal clinic via their email healthherbalclinicgmailcom


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