Drug Free America is urging Florida lawmakers to “proceed with caution” as they begin crafting legislation to implement the state’s newest medical marijuana law.
“While we were opposed to Amendment 2 for a number of specific reasons, we recognize Florida voters have spoken,” said Calvina Fay, the executive director of Drug Free America, in a statement. “We also recognize lawmakers will soon convene and consider implementing language … that will dictate policy for generations to come. We strongly urge them to exercise extreme caution moving forward.
On Thursday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed Senate Bill 406, the Amendment 2 implementing bill. The bill comes just days after the Department of Health initiated the process of developing rules, as outlined under the ballot language.
The bill, among other things, allows for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.
“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a statement last week. “Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly.”
Under Bradley’s bill, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.
Existing law does allow for some growth, authorizing the state health department to issue three more licenses once 250,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.
“As we’ve seen in states like Colorado and California, measures intended to open the door just a little, results in the door opening far too wide,” said Fay. “Because marijuana – and this is not a surprise to anyone – is subject to abuse, has a robust black market, and is the drug of choice for too many of our nation’s youth, the ‘market’ will rapidly and dramatically take advantage of every loophole that can be exploited.”
Fay said growers have indicated they will have “far more capacity than is needed for the foreseeable future,” and warned that further expansion could “create an undue burden on already overwhelmed officials for effectively regulating this industry.
“For these reason, we ask lawmakers to proceed with caution, recognize that the for-profit marijuana industry will exploit loopholes, and to please keep treating marijuana as a dangerous drug that requires strict safeguards and controls,” said Fay.
Bradley’s bill, which was co-introduced by Sen. Dana Young, hasn’t received its committee assignments yet. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers won’t be talking about medical marijuana this week.
The House Health Quality subcommittee is scheduled to hear from several experts — including officials with the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association — during its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday. While a companion to Bradley’s bill hasn’t been filed, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues is expected to carry the House implementing bill.