Marijuana Reform a Mess in Florida

A medical marijuana bill is on the fast track to move forward in the Florida state legislature. The bill, SB 7066, hopes to fix some of the problematic wording in a 2014 bill, SB 1030, which legalized a low-THC high-CBD strain of medical marijuana called Charlotte’s Web for patients suffering from debilitating seizures.

Ever since SB 1030’s passage, implementation of the act has been held up by litigation. The bulk of the lawsuits have come from would-be marijuana growers, many of whom take issue with the strict requirements for potential growers.

Chief among these complaints is the stipulation that in order to be eligible to grow marijuana, one has to have owned a farm/nursery for over 30 years in one location and be able to grow 400,000 plants a year.

Although approximately 99 Florida farms qualify under the provision, it leaves out the vast majority of African-American farmers, many of whom either did not own a farm 30 years ago, have since moved locations or are not big enough.

Eugene Monts is one of the many African-American farmers who feels left out of the bill. “It’s not fair to the small farmer,” Monts told First Coast News. “If he grows one bush give him the opportunity to compete in the market.”

Unfortunately, SB 7066 does little to address these concerns and instead expands on the number of qualifying conditions and number of potential growers. Under this new bill, there would be up to 20 approved growers and patients suffering from HIV, epilepsy, ALS, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease would now qualify for medical marijuana.

Although these new provisions would be a welcome change to the state’s strict medical marijuana laws, it is difficult to see how any of the changes would help keep regulators from getting bogged down in more lawsuits. Without addressing the underlying concerns of Florida’s growers, the lawsuits are not likely to stop.

According to the Bradenton Herald, there was an amendment introduced by Sen. Oscar Braynon that would have done away with the 30-year rule. However, despite not being a fan of the rule himself, bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley had Braynon withdraw the amendment, promising to work with Braynon on a resolution that “will accomplish all of these goals at the same time.”

Simply put, marijuana reform is a mess in Florida right now. Between the legislature stalling on real marijuana reform while fast tracking a bill that does little to change anything, the circumstances do not bode well for prospective medical marijuana patients or investors. While there still time for the legislature to pass meaningful reform, it might just be better to hold out hope for a 2016 ballot initiative instead.

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