While many political operatives and consultants spent the week before Thanksgiving prepping for travel away from Tallahassee, Ben Pollara spent his time interviewing top lobbying firms in Tallahassee about representing Florida for Care, the 501(c)(4) advocacy arm of the medical marijuana campaign.
Yesterday, Tracy and Frank Mayernick submitted their lobbyist registration on behalf of Florida for Care.
“Voters delivered a mandate on the expansion of medical marijuana in Florida and we will work with the legislature to fulfill that mandate with implementing legislation this session,” said Pollara. “Florida for Care intends to be a reasonable actor this spring, while the members of the six family cartel and lobbyist employment center ‘Dispensing Organizations’ hunker down and try to block true enactment of Amendment 2.”
Pollara has hinted that another big name Republican lobbyist will also join the Florida for Care team within the next few days, firepower he’s going to need if he wants to successfully challenge Florida’s new marijuana oligarchy.
With more than 71% of Florida voters supporting Amendment 2, Florida for Care sees a mandate in two areas: first, expand who qualifies for medical marijuana, and let individual doctors make the decision. Second, he wants to expand access to medical marijuana by expanding the market.
The first objective might be much easier to implement than the second. Given that more patients qualifying will mean more prescriptions and more demand, it’s hard to see why Florida’s six marijuana growing licence holders would oppose such a measure. Especially since higher demand will lead to higher prices, and the lack of competition will mean sky-high profit margins for growers and their investors.
But to achieve the second goal, Florida lawmakers (or courts) will need to break with the currently entrenched and well-lobbied incumbents and allow for more licenses to produce medical marijuana as well as potentially do away with complete vertical integration in order to open up the market to more competition.
Pollara knows the “cartel” won’t go down without a fight. His own lobbying budget for this year is nearly a quarter of a million dollars. But it’s going to be an all out war, and the fighting will be savage. Rumors abound that some lobbyists who represent the six dispensing organizations don’t just have contracts to lobby, they also have equity stakes in the growing operations and stand to reap substantial sums of money by restricting access to the market.
The question will ultimately boil down to whether or not the legislature can continue to justify picking winners and losers, when so many Members won their respective elections by telling voters they believe in and support free markets.