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State panel talks dollars and cents of medical pot

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

It’s still not clear how much a proposed constitutional amendment allowing medical use of marijuana will cost the state to implement, nor how much Florida will gain financially from it.

The state’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference, made up of various state officials, met Wednesday to go over nearly 600 pages of reference material on the initiative.

One estimate in the materials showed administrative costs to the state of more than $1 million, but also showed such costs would likely be offset by regulatory fees, meaning a net neutral.

But Alan Suskey, a representative of Drug Free America, told panel members that Colorado was spending $15 million a year on enforcement and education efforts.

Colorado, however, approved the recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and older in 2012. Voters there first passed a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in 2000.

Amy Baker, the Florida Legislature’s chief economic adviser, also said there was continued “uncertainty over taxability” of medical pot. California had projected revenue of $58 million-$105 million from its taxing of marijuana, a background paper showed.

The amendment, supported by Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, is a second attempt to get medicinal pot into the state constitution. A similar initiative failed to get the required 60 percent approval last year by three points.

The new language clarifies issues related to parental consent and the kinds of conditions that would qualify use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

An initiative needs 683,149 verified signatures to get on the ballot. Medical marijuana now has a reported 182,410 valid signatures, according to the state Division of Elections website, which qualifies it for Supreme Court review and approval.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana under state law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but selling marijuana is still a federal crime.

Last year, lawmakers approved the use of Charlotte’s Web, a particular non-euphoric marijuana strain intended to treat children suffering from severe seizures. It is usually ingested as an infused oil.

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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