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Medical marijuana: OK, it time to drop caps on dispensaries

in Peter/Top Headlines by

To be frank, it was a pretty smart move, in retrospect.

As competing bills to implement Amendment 2 get bogged down mid-Session, the hot-button flashpoints began: The number of new medical marijuana licensees, as well as the process to award those highly-valued “Willy Wonka” golden tickets.

Current license holders have a point: “We invested millions (at your statutory direction) in anticipation of Amendment 2 passing to become operational.”

And, in case anyone forgot, investors are losing their shirts waiting for the number of patients to grow to the point where they can start recouping investments.

Not bad.

The pro-Amendment 2 folks also have a pretty good argument. Not so much an argument; more like a threat.

Essentially, it’s this: “71 percent of voters supported this. They are going to be mad if they can’t get cheap medical weed.”

“And, by the way, did we mention that 71 percent of voters supported it?”

You see, things are starting to get bogged down.

To compel current medical cannabis licensees to back off their position, somebody (with some strategy smarts) said: “OK, let’s show them. Let them keep their licenses, but make those licenses nearly worthless.”

Then, former Sen. Frank Artiles introduced an amendment limiting licensees to three dispensaries each.

What would that mean if the bill’s amendment to cap dispensaries (which had been adopted) became law? The current crop of more than a half-dozen entities — those that already went through the legal/financial/statutory gauntlet to become a fully-functional and legal medical marijuana grower/producer/sellers — would be limited to just three outlets. (They can also secure home delivery — in limited amounts.)

That would result in either severely restricting access to medical marijuana to anyone living around a major metropolitan area, or make the cost of the product would be extremely expensive. Or both.

And considering that local municipalities are proactively limiting those numbers through local zoning ordinances, this is piling on to a level that could put medical marijuana out of reach for most patients — particularly those who really need it.

Let us step back, shall we?

At first, these caps, from what I have heard from many sources, were not meant to be something to become law. Even pro-Amendment 2 folks supported it. They were doing such — and this is a vital point — only as a means of leveraging to acquire more licenses, with fewer restrictions.

After all, they were looking for more access, fewer hurdles, and lower prices.

In short, less would be more — or at least that was the theory.

But it’s not.

In the present circumstance, less is less. And caps on dispensaries means less access, fewer available products, and fewer licensees. But when it comes to cost, less is more — medical weed prices would skyrocket, that is.

To be clear, pro-Amendment 2 folks are really not looking for limited access and higher prices — it seems obvious they were pushing this notion simply to upset the game.

They are seeking more product at a lower price; this was a way (they hoped) to get to that end.

That is what they did, and succeeded.

But now the dust has settled, and the Senate bill still has caps in it.

With only three full days left, it may just be time to back off.

Caps on dispensaries — at any number — helps nobody. What it does is hurts those who took a chance, making an investment in medical cannabis. It also hurts those who live in rural (and even some suburban) areas.

Also, dispensary caps hurt patients — particularly those who are very sick or need to travel.

And, most of all, it hurts the 71 percent who supported medical marijuana for severely ill patients.

It’s time to drop the caps and move on.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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