Florida’s End of the Year Medical Marijuana Update
Since November 8th much action has happened in Florida’s Medical Cannabis Industry. The rapid pace at which the state and cities have been reacting to the passing of Amendment 2 is a great indication of how receptive the overall government is to the new industry. In mid December the state health officials acknowledged a 7th cannabis license had been awarded. After a year of litigation, McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery had proved their point that they qualified for the cannabis licensure. Such license allows the licensee to grow, process, and dispense non-euphoric medical cannabis in the state of Florida to patients that fall under a very limited number of illnesses.
The next question for the 7 nurseries awarded cannabis licenses is whether they will be automatically grandfathered in under the new medical cannabis laws. Arguably they would have to re-apply since the new cannabis laws surrounds a much different type of cannabis plant, which contains high THC, the component of the medical plant that gives a psychoactive effect. However, do note, the state recently added that “full strength cannabis,” was allowed to be cultivated and distributed to terminally ill patients by the 7 license holders. The term “full strength” has yet to be qualified, illustrating the lack of knowledge of the Florida legislators regarding medical cannabis. Moreover, terminally ill patients are only allowed to order less than a week worth of cannabis due to the shortage of supply, illustrating the inadequacy of the current cannabis license holders, who have been in operation since the middle of 2016. At the moment, Trulieve and Surterra received distribution authorization in July. Modern Health Concepts received their authorization in September and the state’s Health Department gave Knox Medical authorization in early December.
Another tremendous leap in the right direction happened when the Florida Senate held a Health Committee meeting regarding the issue of medical cannabis on December 13, 2016. The Committee hosted a panel of “industry experts,” and allowed industry activist to speak on the record at the end of the Committee meeting. Topics ranged from concepts such as child safety measures to the manner in which the State will disseminate licenses, either integrated or separated. What was interesting about the Committee panel of “industry experts,” was that they were not really industry experts! One panelist was a representative from Trulieve, one of the 7 cannabis license holders from Tallahassee. Unfortunately, the only expert opinions given by the company representative were statements that benefited their company, and not the patients or industry as a whole. Trulieve is documented to have lobbyist currently working to push their agenda, which is to maintaining the status quo, in efforts to monopolize the market. One article by Daniel Ducassi wrote, “Nick Iarossi, lobbyist for Trulieve, argues for a more conservative, ‘cautious’ approach that ‘preserves the culture of Florida’.” Meaning, do not issue any more licenses, as they will eat away at the market share that we currently intend to hoard.
Additionally, during a recent zoning and planning board meeting for the city of Fort Lauderdale, representatives from Costa Farms, D/B/A Modern Health Concepts, were also pushing their agenda by trying to get the city moratorium removed or at the very least shortened. This move was clearly with the intent to have first choice over the city’s prime location for one of their dispensaries. Modern Health Concept knows that if the moratorium extends for six months, they run the risk of being outcompeted for a prime location for their dispensary.
Under the Compassionate Use Act, the licensees can only cultivate and process from their region, but can open as many dispensaries as they please and anywhere in the state. A clear advantage the license holders want to exploit before other licenses are awarded. The intent of these companies is understandable from a business point of view, but distasteful and disgusting to the patients and public at large. They speak on the record and promote that their efforts are for the patients, but obviously their words are a pretext to mask their greedy financial endeavors. The licensee’s claim its for the patient in need and that no more licenses need to be issued since they can cover the supply demand, but they cannot even produce enough to provide for the very limited existing patients, as a current shortage of supply exist.
These companies need to focus on becoming operation, and then they can worry about maintaining the status quo and finding prime locations. Statistically, dispensaries in the city make great financial gains, but dispensaries in rural areas barely make enough to cut even on the books. The public and patients are aware of this and will likely not use products from these companies once other licenses are awarded. We take this notion from the events that transpired in Ohio in 2015, where the public voted “yes” for a medical cannabis industry, but voted “no” the monopoly that the state intended to structure. The consensus is clear, the public does not like industry monopolies and actual unite to ban against it. Here in Florida will be no different. If these companies continue to promote their selfish ways, it could be a very short run for them in the industry.
On a final note, many cities’ are currently in the process of writing language to implement into there zoning codes, despite their implementation of a moratorium. Such as the city of Fort Lauderdale, who currently has their representative writing the first draft. In the event the audience wants the inside scoop of the first draft, please feel free to contact GreenAcre Consulting Team. The city of Hollywood has also given GreenAcre the inside scoop on where they intend to allow the cultivation sites in their city. Dade County has already posted their zoning requirements. Broward County filed a motion to direct the County Attorney to draft an ordinance amending Chapter 39 of the zoning code. The new provisions will regulate medical marijuana, as it pertains to cultivation, processing, and dispensing. Further, Parkland in Broward County gave the initial approval to regulate medical cannabis dispensaries. City Attorney Andrew Maurodis is behind the new regulation and stated that the city is adhering the request of the constituents. They pronounced that they are going to allow the sites to open in the industrial areas, but currently no industrial areas exist. The city will have to zone an industrial area or change the zoning district.
The Florida government has made great efforts to move the cannabis industry along in just under two months. Illustrating that they welcome the industry with open arms, but doing so in such a subtle manner that does not offend the opposition.
Rolando Vazquez, Esq.
GreenAcre Consulting Team