Implementation of medical marijuana amendment brings together unlikely allies - SaintPetersBlog

Implementation of medical marijuana amendment brings together unlikely allies

With establishment lobbyists now representing it, the medical marijuana cause appears to have become—grab your pearls—respectable.

Florida for Care, the nonprofit organization that is advocating for “well-regulated” medicinal pot in the state, has hired Brecht Heuchan and The Mayernick Group to advocate for its interests.

Heuchan, who says he voted against the medical marijuana constitutional amendment this November, has worked for Gov. Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work PAC. He’ll lobby the executive agencies.

“I didn’t want Florida to be like California but my vote was an ignorant one, as it turns out,” he said. “The amendment … will change thousands and thousands of Floridians’ lives and this can be done in a responsible way.”

The Mayernicks, GOP loyalists and experts in appropriations, have the legislative end.

Florida voters approved the initiative by 71 percent, well over the required 60 percent needed. That was two years after it missed passage by roughly 2 ½ percent.

“It’s rare you get to work on an issue that helps people cope with their medical condition and is supported by an overwhelming mandate of the voters,” Frank Mayernick said.

Now the work lies in how the amendment will work in practice.

State Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, will hold a workshop next Tuesday in her Senate Health Policy committee on “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions,” a Senate schedule shows.

“There are many competing interests on the implementation (of medical marijuana),” lobbyist Tracy Mayernick said.

“We will be advocating for reasonable implementation that allows for adequate access, patient safety and affordability to the expanded patient population as well as a strong regulatory structure that meets the needs of law enforcement and communities across Florida.”

Just as important, cannabis as medicine is about to become big, even huge, business. 

A recent report says Florida will rack up over $1 billion in medical marijuana sales in the next three years. Soon, the Sunshine State could be behind only California in the size of its medical pot revenues.

It’s used as a “critical therapy by millions of patients to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, and more,” according to Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.

Here, the amendment grants a right to people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

In Florida, the “non-euphoric” version is already approved for children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. The state later passed a law allowing terminally ill patients to use a stronger form of marijuana during their final days.

Florida and other states have operated under a kind of salutary neglect when it comes to marijuana, the sale of which is still a federal crime.

The Obama administration has directed federal prosecutors not to charge those, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

President-elect Donald Trump “has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize,” according to TIME magazine.

“I think there’s an axis between the message the voters sent, the desire of the legislature to regulate this law in a lowercase ‘c’-conservative way, and the wants of the nascent medical marijuana industry,” Heuchan said.

“I agreed to join Florida for Care because they’re taking an approach to implementation that acknowledges this balancing act, and are seeking to be productive and reasonable in the process.”


Ed. Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that John Morgan chairs Florida for Care. Morgan chairs United for Care, a separate entity.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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