After failing to adopt a medical marijuana bill during the regular legislative session, the Legislature is looking at how best to implement Amendment 2 which voters overwhelmingly approved last fall.
Senate President Joe Negron sent out a memorandum to Senate members Thursday morning outlining the issue and seeking input on how best to proceed on the matter.
“The Legislature has a solemn duty to fully and fairly implement Amendment 2, which was passed with the support of over 71 percent of the voters in 2016,” Negron told Senators. “We should ensure medical marijuana is readily accessible to any Floridian who suffers from an enumerated debilitating condition, as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”
A bill implementing Amendment 2 failed to pass during the regular session due to differences on how many dispensaries a medical marijuana treatment center could operate.
“The Senate did not support an unwarranted expansion of treatment centers until patient demand has been established,” Negron added.
Under the proposed implementing bill, the state would have picked seven licensed nurseries to “cultivate, process, transport, and dispense” the medical marijuana. The issue that divided the House and Senate was how many dispensaries each licensee could operate.
The proposal offered by the House on the final day of the regular session would have capped the number of dispensaries across the state at 100 for each licensed nursery. The Senate wanted to take a more conservative approach setting the cap at 15 dispensaries.
Critics oppose the House plan.They say limiting the number of licensed nurseries and allowing them to operate that many dispensaries essentially amounts to creating a “cartel system of marijuana businesses” in Florida. Ben Pollara, who was one of the backers of Amendment 2, believes the House plan undermines the original intent of the amendment.
“I believe strongly that this cartel system will ultimately harm patient access through high prices, a lack of diverse products, and no true competition,” Pollara said earlier this week in a column for the Sunshine State News.
The Senate President’s memorandum comes a day after House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he supports bringing lawmakers back to Tallahassee for a special legislative session to enact an implementing bill.
Sen. Negron had said Monday he would be open to the idea of a special session to deal with the medical marijuana issue.
If the Legislature fails to enact an implementing law it would be up to state Department of Health regulators to write the rules for implementing the amendment. Legislative leaders believe the issue is too important to leave the rulemaking up to staff workers.