When the Florida Department of Health released its recommended regulations for the implementation of Amendment 2 – the medical marijuana measure that FL voters approved in November – activists were not impressed, including those who fought so hard to get Amendment 2 on the ballot (twice) and get it passed.
While the Department of Health wants to use the state’s existing program – which is only set up to handle a few thousand patients, including children with epilepsy and terminally ill patients – some lawmakers are worried that it will not be able to handle the demand that Amendment 2 is going to unleash.
State Senator Rob Bradley (R) proposed a bill (SB 406) days after the Department of Health released their recommendations that also starts the new medical marijuana industry with the current number of licensed operators (7). But his bill allows for the addition of more legal operators after the state’s medical marijuana program reaches 250,000 patients, then again at 500,000 patients.
Ben Pollara, the campaign manager of the political committee that backed Amendment 2 in November (United for Care), said Bradley’s effort was “a stark contrast” to what was proposed by the Department of Health.
“It’s a good start toward implementing both the letter and the spirit of the constitutional amendment,” Pollara said.
It seems the Florida House is thinking along the same lines as the Senate, but may be looking to expand the program’s supply at an even quicker pace.
The constitutional amendment itself allows doctors to prescribe 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 and multiple sclerosis. Doctors are also allowed some leeway under Amendment 2 if they believe “that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
As with any marijuana legalization bill, whether for recreational or medical purposes, there is a real danger of the government over-regulating the industry and creating serious problems for consumers and patients. This would cause many patients in Florida to suffer needlessly and/or go to the black market for their medicine.
The urge to restrict the legal marijuana supply on the part of government officials stems from the lingering belief that cannabis is somehow dangerous and needs to be kept under tight control. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so much haggling over a mountain of restrictions.
But there is already a massive supply of cannabis available for sale on the black market; all that legal restrictions do is keep it there, which serves no purpose unless you grow and sell marijuana illegally. Everyone else gets screwed, and in this case that could mean hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of patients in Florida.