Judge rips state agency, calls for another pot license
SARASOTA, Fla., June 21, 2018 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- AltMed Florida has announced the opening of the first of 25 MÜV™ dispensary locations at 5909 N US Hwy 41, Apollo Beach - strategically located to serve Apollo Beach, the entire Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee county markets.
The Grand Opening is Saturday, June 23rd from 10am-7pm for licensed Florida medical cannabis patients.
Located just a few hundred yards south of Apollo Beach Blvd on US Highway 41, the site has easily accessible roadside visibility and a dedicated parking lot.
"Our first Florida dispensary opening represents a significant milestone for our company and Florida patients," said AltMed Florida CEO John Tipton. "Our MÜV Medical Cannabis line of products already has a wide following in other legal medical cannabis markets, including Arizona, where it has won Five Best of Arizona medical cannabis awards."
MÜV Products offer an extensive variety of delivery options, including several that are unique among current Florida license holders with its patent-pending transdermal gels and metered dose inhalers. Products will come high in CBD or THC as well as CBD/THC balanced formulations. Product categories will include topicals (gels and creams), transdermal patches, metered dose inhalers, distillate vaporizer pens (without any cutting agents), all-natural terpene enriched vaporizer pens, strain specific vaporizer pens, oral sprays, tinctures and an Activated Metered click distillate syringe.
MÜV Products will be sold exclusively in Florida at MÜV dispensaries because, unlike other states, Florida does not allow wholesale of product between license holders - only products that license holders make themselves can be sold in their dispensaries.
"The MÜV retail experience speaks to the role of medical cannabis products in the modern healthcare marketplace," said AltMed Marketing Director Todd Beckwith. "We learned that MÜV customers in other legal medical cannabis states are more apt to take an active role in their healthcare than with traditional medicine. They want to understand the products and the research behind the products, so we have created a layered and informative retail experience."
For more information about the new ADA compliant Apollo Beach MÜV Medical Cannabis Dispensary, including hours and available MÜV products, visit: http://www.altmedflorida.com.
About AltMed Enterprises - Alternative Medical Enterprises, LLC, headquartered in Sarasota, FL and doing business as AltMed Enterprises, is a fully integrated company that brings pharmaceutical industry precision to the development, production and dispensing of medical cannabinoids.
About AltMed Florida, LLC (Plants of Ruskin, LLC d.b.a.) - With a focus on quality and attention to detail, Plants of Ruskin has more than 35 years of experience in providing seedlings to farmers for vegetable and medical product production. Plants of Ruskin founders, the Dickman Family, are 4th generation farmers with a long history of working in conjunction with the University of Florida, including an endowed chair specifically dedicated to plant improvement.
About MÜV™ - The MÜV brand of cannabis infused products was launched in Arizona in 2016 and has quickly gained international attention and recognition. In its first six months alone, MÜV received four best of Arizona medical cannabis awards, including two first prizes for its proprietary extractions that are the basis of all MÜV products.
Forward-Looking Statements - To the extent any statements made in this press release contain information that is not historical, these statements are forward-looking in nature and merely express our beliefs, expectations or opinions. For example, words such as "may," "should," "estimates," "predicts," "continues," "believes," "anticipates," "plans," "expects," "intends," "potential," "strategy" and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such statements are based on current expectations or estimates and involve a number of known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from the results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to these differences include, but are not limited to, the following: (i) our ability to implement our business strategy of distributing high quality cannabis products where permissible under applicable law; (ii) availability and cost of additional capital; (iii) our ability to attract, retain and motivate qualified employees and management; (iv) the impact of federal, state or local government regulations; (v) competition in the cannabis industry; (vi) our ability to generate revenues; and (vii) litigation in connection with our business. All forward-looking statements included in this press release and attributable to us or any person acting on our behalf are qualified by this cautionary statement. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date on which they are made, and, except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statement, regardless of whether new information becomes available, future developments occur or otherwise.
Florida judge rules state ban on smokable medical marijuana is unconstitutional
BY AVERY ANAPOL - 05/26/18 12:17 PM EDT
A Florida judge on Friday ruled that the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana is unconstitutional.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers wrote in her ruling that residents “have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their certified physicians.”
The Florida health department said that it has appealed the ruling, resulting in an automatic stay, according to The Associated Press.
Medical marijuana advocates praised Gievers’s ruling as a victory for patients.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health said in a statement to the AP that Gievers’s ruling “goes against what the legislature outlined when they wrote and approved the law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved.”Florida legalized medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment in 2016. The following year, state lawmakers passed measures to ban the sale of smoking products, saying that patients could use medical marijuana through other methods, such as vaping, food and oils.
The Orlando attorney who challenged the ban on smoking products filed the lawsuit on behalf of two terminal patients who said that smokable medical marijuana was more effective for their conditions than vaping.
Cathy Jordan, a patient in the lawsuit who has Lou Gehrig's disease, said that smoking medical marijuana has helped prolong her life, despite doctors telling her in 1986 that she only had three to five more years to live.
“So many people won’t smoke due to the stigma and it being against the law. This is legitimate medicine,” she told the AP. “This ruling is not just for me but for many other people.”
State files to block effect of ‘home grow’ ruling
By NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA • MAY 25, 2018 via WLRN
Businesses seeking to enter Florida’s pot industry warned state health officials Thursday of numerous flaws in a proposed rule that would expand the number of medical marijuana operators but could lead to further delays in a process that’s already months overdue.
A hearing about the proposed rule came more than seven months after a legislatively mandated Oct. 3 deadline for the Department of Health to issue new medical-marijuana licenses, in what could be one of the country’s largest cannabis markets.
The proposed rule, released more than three weeks ago, set in motion the application process --- considered far behind schedule by many legislators --- for four highly sought-after licenses.
But the issues identified Thursday signaled possible legal or administrative challenges that could further postpone the issuance of licenses.
Lawmakers ordered the new licenses after voters approved a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized marijuana as a treatment for patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and multiple sclerosis.
Under a 2014 law that allowed limited types of medical cannabis, the Department of Health had awarded some licenses before the constitutional amendment passed. But the Legislature last year gave state health officials until Oct. 3 to grant 10 new licenses to marijuana operators who meet certain requirements, including applicants who were involved in litigation prior to January 2017.
In marijuana legislation this year, lawmakers did away with the Oct. 3 deadline --- months after it had passed.
The state thus far has issued licenses to 13 operators, including a handful of new operators who met the criteria laid out in the 2017 law, but has yet to begin accepting applications for four new licenses to potential vendors who may not have participated in the process before.
The law requires one of the new licenses to go to a black farmer who was involved in federal litigation about discriminatory lending practices.
And the law requires health officials to give preference for up to two licenses to applicants that “own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana.” The citrus preference is the subject of one of several marijuana-related court challenges.
During about an hour of public testimony Thursday, most of the complaints were focused on the citrus-related language in the proposed rule.
Lawyer Seann Frazier pointed out that the proposed regulation substituted the word “property” for “facilities,” which, he said, “adds vagueness” and may broaden the language in the statute, something the agency is not permitted to do.
The proposed rule would give the two highest-scoring applicants who are eligible for the citrus preference an extra 35 points, in addition to a total of 1,150 possible points available to all applicants. The 35 extra points amount to just a three percent bonus, Frazier said.
“We respectfully suggest that more weight should be given to the citrus preference” to “avoid a situation where you issue licenses and no one really had a meaningful exercise of the preference,” Frazier, who represents Tampa-based Louis del Favero Orchids, said.
Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director Christian Bax asked Frazier if he had a suggestion about how many points the citrus preference should be worth.
“I suggest it should be a lot higher preference, one that would make a difference that a citrus-qualifying applicant will actually receive a license,” said Frazier, whose client is interested in seeking one of the citrus-preference licenses.
Other speakers complained that page limits imposed in the proposed rule could prevent applicants from providing necessary information, such as how many dispensaries they plan to open or information about human-resources policies.
“We’ll certainly take all of these concerns into consideration. We’re also going to wait for those written comments that are going to be submitted over the next seven days,” Bax told reporters after the meeting. “If the department believes that a change needs to be made, then it will be made. If not, then we’ll continue to move forward with this process.”
Bax had blamed delays in the rollout of the rules on litigation involving the black farmer provision in the law --- which has now been resolved --- and Hurricane Irma.
Following Thursday’s hearing, the public has a week to submit comments on the proposed rule and 10 days to file administrative challenges.
If no challenges are filed, the agency could begin accepting applications by mid-July.
But that prospect is unlikely, industry insiders believe.
“There may be some people in the room that want to slow this down because they’re not ready to apply yet,” said Jeff Sharkey, a lobbyist and founder of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.
Legal and administrative challenges have become part of the state’s medical-marijuana odyssey.
“If the scoring happens in a certain way, and somebody disagrees with it … then there’s probably bound to be some protests. It’s a very litigious process here, after the awards are made,” Sharkey said.
The proposed application-process rule is one of a series of regulations that have been harshly criticized by a legislative committee whose job it is to ensure that agency’s rules correctly implement state laws.
Bax has been under fire for months for refusing to respond to the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee’s objections to his office’s proposed and emergency regulations.
Many of the problems identified by the committee were characterized as an unauthorized regulation that “enlarges, modifies or contravenes” the 2017 law.
For example, the law requires health officials to issue four more licenses once the number of eligible patients in a statewide database reaches 100,000, and an additional four licenses after another 100,000 patients are registered. One of the health department’s emergency rules allows Bax to issue four “contingent” licenses to applicants who are not selected in the initial round of evaluations, something the oversight committee says the Office of Medical Marijuana Use is not authorized by law to do.
In March, Department of Health General Counsel Nichole Geary told the committee’s executive director, Kenneth Plante, that the agency was “working diligently to move forward with new rules in light of the objections raised by the committee” so that health officials could begin accepting applications in the spring.
But the rule proposed on May 1 ignored several of the committee’s objections, Plante pointed out in a letter this month, asking if it was an oversight or if the department refused to make the modifications.
On Thursday, Bax told reporters the health department is still reviewing the committee’s letter.
“There’s always give and take” between the committee and state agencies, Bax said, adding that “we certainly respect the Legislature’s prerogative to provide input on this process and we’re looking forward to continuing our work with them.”
But Plante told The News Service of Florida state agencies and the legislative oversight committee “are all part of a system” aimed at ensuring that the rules implementing the statute go into effect.
“So if their (the health department) position is they’ve got their job, we’ve got ours, and never the twain shall meet, I think they overlap. We’re supposed to be working together to make sure this is a good product. That’s our goal,” he said.
But Redner’s attorney says the state simply continues to argue – also erroneously – that the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana doesn’t mean what it says.
He won a decision, now under appeal, from Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last month that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has an immediate right to ‘home grow.’ His doctor says juiced marijuana is the best way to keep his cancer in remission, though the state countered he “also acknowledged the lack of scientific research to support this claim.”
But the state appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which reinstated a delay of the effect of the ruling while the case is under review there. Redner asked that court to expedite the appeal.
The Health Department regulates medicinal cannabis through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
In its response, the department’s lawyers in part argued that under the “definition of ‘medical use,’ a qualifying patient is not entitled to cultivate (i.e., grow) or process marijuana because the words ‘cultivate’ and ‘process’ are not included” in the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016.
“Instead, the right to cultivate and process medical marijuana is reserved for” authorized medical marijuana providers, it says.
But the state’s definition of “cannabis” says it’s “all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not (and) the seeds thereof,” which Redner says bolsters his case.
While he awaits the appeal, he’s also asking Gievers to order the state to reimburse his legal costs — including $16,000 for PowerPoint presentations — because he won the lawsuit. The state later asked that the costs request be held “in abeyance” pending the appeal.
Health spokesman Devin Galetta has said the agency “fully expects Judge Gievers’ ruling to be reversed on appeal.”
Luke Lirot, Redner’s attorney, said he “disagrees with the department’s arguments” and said the stay should be lifted.
“We have an important constitutional issue that will invariably be before them, coupled with (Redner’s) emergent medical condition,” he said. “… Time is of the essence.”
Redner, owner of the Mons Venus nightclub, also is a vegan. Gievers’ order limits him to no more than eight ounces or raw marijuana daily, based on his doctors’ recommendations. It applies only to Redner and allows him to “possess, grow and use marijuana” only for juicing.
Friday’s full 22-page filing is here.
Cathy Jordan credits pot with helping her defeat the odds in the battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease she’s waged for more than 30 years.
And although she can now legally obtain the cannabis treatment she’s relied on for decades, Jordan is prohibited from what she and her doctors swear is the best way for her to consume her medicine --- smoking joints.
Jordan is among the plaintiffs challenging a state law that bans smoking pot as a route of administration for the hundreds of thousands of patients who are eligible for medical marijuana treatment in Florida.
With her husband, Bob, serving as her interpreter during a trial Wednesday, Jordan told Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers and a packed courtroom that she started smoking pot a few years after she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 1986.
“My doctors are really not concerned with the risk because I’m still alive. In ‘86, I was given three to five years to live. And I’m still here,” Jordan, draped in a pink shawl, testified.
Wednesday’s hearing came more than 18 months after voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions like Jordan.
Lawmakers last year enacted the prohibition on joints --- derided as “no smoke is a joke” by critics --- largely to protect the public from the ill effects of smoking, lawyers for the state argued.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen said “smoking should never be a route of administration for any medicinal product.”
“Smoking is a crude delivery system that delivers harmful substances. It is associated with various respiratory symptoms. It contains many of the same toxins as does tobacco smoke,” she said.
But Jordan said none of the dozens of doctors she’s seen over more than 30 years have ever told her to stop smoking marijuana. In fact, her current neurologist advised her to do just the opposite.
“They’re actually more interested in how healthy I am after having ALS for so long,” said Jordan.
The prohibition on smoking was included in a state law aimed at implementing the 2016 constitutional amendment, but John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as Amendment 2 and initiated the lawsuit, is among those who maintain that the smoking ban runs afoul of the Constitution. Gievers did not rule on the challenge Wednesday.
“The amendment itself says smoking is not allowed in public places. I don’t think you need to be too much of a legal scholar to understand that means it is allowed in other places,” Morgan told reporters before the hearing began.
Morgan and the other lawyers representing the plaintiffs also used a “slippery slope” argument, saying lawmakers and health officials could have banned a variety of other routes of administration.
“Look, if the Legislature wanted to, they could have banned edibles, which they tried to do. They could have banned oils, which they tried to do. They could have banned smoke and they could have said, ‘Listen, we’re just going to let it be done by suppository.’ What stops that?” Morgan said.
During arguments Wednesday, Jon Mills, a former House speaker and former dean of the University of Florida law school who was one of the chief authors of Amendment 2, told Gievers the law passed last year is in “irreconcilable conflict” with the Constitution.
Mills also pointed to the Legislature’s outlawing of smoking marijuana as evidence that the Constitution permits it.
“Why would you act to exclude smoking if smoking wasn’t authorized?” he asked.
Lawyers for the state, however, argue that the amendment does not expressly allow smoking and gives Florida officials broad authority to “regulate health, safety and welfare” of the public.
“It’s not anything goes,” Senior Deputy Solicitor General Rachel Nordby said.
But other routes of administration are problematic for Jordan, who grows her own marijuana.
Vaping makes her gag. Edibles give her stomach cramps. Smoking gives Jordan “dry mouth,” which offsets the excessive drooling caused by ALS, she said. And it relaxes her muscles, increases her appetite and helps combat depression, said the diminutive Jordan, who frequently breaks out in an infectious smile.
“It just makes my life a lot more bearable,” she said.
But Nordby told the judge that several provisions in the amendment highlight that “the state has a role in setting parameters” for marijuana use, including the ban on smoking.
“It is not whatever the doctor says. It is not anything goes,” she said.
The plaintiffs, in contrast, insist that the Constitution allows smokable marijuana in a variety of ways, including how marijuana is defined.
The constitutional amendment relied on a 2014 definition of marijuana in Florida criminal law, which includes “all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not.” That includes whole-flower marijuana, which is used for smoking, the plaintiffs contend.
The plaintiffs are also relying on an “analysis of intent” of the amendment, published prior to the November election and disseminated broadly to the media and the public, to bolster their argument that smokable pot always was part of the plan.
Ben Pollara, who was the campaign manager for Amendment 2 and is president of Florida for Care, a non-profit organization advocating for patients and the medical marijuana industry, testified Wednesday that the public was fully aware that the proposal would have legalized smoking of medical marijuana.
“It was just assumed by most, if not all, that when we were talking about marijuana, we were talking about the green, leafy stuff that you smoke,” Pollara, one of the authors of the analysis, said.
Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s hearing, Morgan called Cathy Jordan a “Florida hero” and urged the state to back down.
“Enough is enough. Let’s stop the politics. Let’s let these people live their final years with dignity,” he said.
In a separate marijuana-related lawsuit, Gievers telegraphed how she is likely to rule in the smokable pot case. Gievers last month gave the go-ahead to Tampa strip-club owner Joe Redner to grow his own marijuana for use in juicing. The 77-year-old Redner’s doctors ordered the juicing treatment to keep his lung cancer in remission.
“Nothing in the amendment authorizes the Department of Health (or any other part of Florida’s government) to ignore the rights of qualifying patients to access the medical marijuana treatment to which they are entitled under the Florida Constitution, or to exclude any method by which qualifying patients may take their medicine,” Gievers wrote in a 22-page order, in which she also scolded health officials for being “non-compliant” with the Florida constitutional requirements.
The state has appealed Gievers’ decision in the Redner lawsuit, and Redner has asked the Florida Supreme Court to weigh in on the case.
Answers to 12 questions you may have about medical marijuana in Florida
Tylisa Johnson, Tampa Bay Times
Medical marijuana became broadly legal in Florida nearly 15 months ago, after an overwhelming number of Floridians, about 71 percent, approved a constitutional amendment that expanded the list of qualified medical conditions. Medical marijuana is available in Florida, but remains illegal under federal law.
Now that it has come to Pasco, the Tampa Bay Times compiled a list of frequently asked questions about this new medication.
How do I become a legal medical marijuana patient?
A Florida resident who wants to become a medical marijuana patient must do the following:
1. See a qualified physician for a certification exam.
Florida has nearly 1,300 physicians — including 20 in Pasco County — qualified and registered to determine if a patient should use medical marijuana. Physicians do an initial exam, take into account medical records and may diagnose a qualifying condition.
2. Register and obtain a medical marijuana use registry identification card.
A qualified physician places potential patients on the state’s medical marijuana use registry, so they can apply for the state identification card. Potential patients, or their caregivers, must submit an application to the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, either mailed-in or online, with a copy of a state ID or proof of residency and the required $75 fee. An approved passport photo is required with the application if it’s being mailed to the office. Identification cards expire one year after the approved date. Patients or caregivers can renew the card by submitting an application 45 days before the expiration date.
3. Purchase medication at a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary.
No medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in Pasco County, but they could be soon. Until then, patients can buy from two dispensing stores in Tampa — Surterra Wellness and Trulieve. Delivery is available to the Tampa Bay area from a handful of companies in Florida.
How long does it take to get a medical marijuana registry identification card?
It usually takes about two to four weeks. According to a recent release from the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, paper applications were processed in about 23 days, and online applications took about 17 days. However, patients no longer have to wait for a physical card to come in the mail. They can temporarily use an e-mail approval from the state.
What conditions qualify?
Medical marijuana can be an alternative for a number of medical conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), terminal illnesses, or "other debilitating medical conditions," the law says.
Some of those other conditions, multiple physicians told the Tampa Bay Times, could be anxiety, depression, chronic pain, endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome, sleep disorders, arthritis, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease and gastrointestinal disorders.
Is medical marijuana covered by insurance?
Insurance does not cover costs, because medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Can a doctor prescribe me medical marijuana?
No, prescribing medical marijuana is illegal under federal law. Doctors and other healthcare providers can only recommend or issue written certifications.
How do I get medical marijuana if I can’t move around?
Some physicians make house calls for patients or potential patients who are unable to move around easily, such as severely sick or hospice patients. Delivery services also are an option.
Can I grow my own marijuana?
No, but a Florida judge recently granted Joe Redner, of Tampa, the ability to home-grow marijuana to treat his lung cancer. The 77-year-old strip club owner was allowed to grow marijuana for medical use as of April 11, a circuit judge in Tallahassee decided. No law change took place, because the order is pending an appeal filed by the state’s Department of Health.
Can I smoke medical marijuana?
State law bans smokable marijuana, but an Orlando attorney is challenging that ban.
If I use medical marijuana, will I feel high?
Not necessarily. When physicians write orders for patients, they take into account a patient’s needs and preferences. Patients with certain conditions, including the severe nausea or lack of appetite experienced by some cancer patients, may have orders that suggest a drug combination that gives a euphoric high, but other strains don’t.
Are different products and strains available at dispensaries?
Yes. Many dispensaries offer different strains of dried marijuana specialized to treat various ailments and symptoms.
Beyond that, some dispensaries offer oils, concentrates, liquids that can be vaporized, topical ointments, pills, edibles, wax and accessories.
Will I test positive for THC?
It depends on the product. Patients using cannabidiol, or CBD medicines, may not test positive. Other cannabis medications will cause patients to test positive.
How do I find a doctor, dispensary or delivery service?
Visit the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana website to see a list of approved treatment centers.
by: News Service of Florida
Florida’s medical-marijuana patient database has hit the 100,000 mark, according to a weekly update issued by the state Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Marijuana supporters celebrated the number, revealed on April 20, which is also known as “weed day” throughout the nation.
As of Friday, 100,576 Florida patients had registered with the office, an increase of more than 2,500 in the past week.
Only 75,208 of the registered patients have been issued ID cards allowing them to purchase the marijuana treatment, and nearly 3,000 more applications for the cards are being processed.
According to the update, 1,314 doctors have qualified to order marijuana treatment for patients.
Florida voters broadly legalized medical marijuana in a constitutional amendment nearly two years ago, but state regulators are fighting a series of legal and administrative challenges about the laws and rules related to the burgeoning industry.
Redner’s doctors testified that juicing marijuana whole plants was the best source of treatment to keep his cancer in remission.
The state is appealing the decision.
In a separate case initiated by Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment, patients are challenging a state law banning smokable marijuana.
The patients are arguing that their doctors have ordered the smokable treatment.
After Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill last week that resolved the case, a Panama City farmer has dropped a constitutional challenge to a 2017 law that included criteria for awarding a potentially lucrative medical-marijuana license to a black farmer.
Attorneys for Columbus Smith filed a notice Tuesday in Leon County circuit court that they were dismissing the lawsuit.
The 2017 law required one medical-marijuana license to go to a black farmer who had been part of settled lawsuits, known as “Pigford” cases, about discrimination against black farmers by the federal government.
The measure also required the black farmer who received a license to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter. Smith met the qualification of being part of the Pigford litigation, but he was not allowed to join the black farmers association, effectively preventing him from receiving a license.
The Florida Constitution bars “special” laws, in part, that relate to “grant of privilege to a private corporation.” The lawsuit alleged the narrow criteria for awarding a marijuana license to a black farmer violated that part of the Constitution.
Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in January granted a temporary injunction requested by Smith. But lawmakers during this year’s legislative session approved a bill (HB 6049) that removed the requirement that farmers be members of the association to qualify for a marijuana license. Scott signed the bill Friday.
By ANDREW QUINTANA • MAR 23, 2018 WFSU
The Florida Legislature has grown tired of the Department of Health’s lack of progress on medical marijuana rules. The frustration has led DOH to conduct a series of workshops to move forward on the issue. The most recent one focused on pesticide use.
Ben Pollara is the Executive Director of Florida for Care, a medical marijuana advocacy group. He has become frustrated with the handling of Florida’s medical marijuana industry.
“It’s part of the Department’s history of incompetent management. You know dereliction of their responsibilities; I mean this is not new. For the past three years, since Christian Bax headed up this department, they’ve got a history of failing to meet deadlines. And wherever they can figure out a place to screw up they’ve managed to do so,” Pollara says.
Despite 71% of voters voting in favor of medical marijuana in the 2016 election, and 85,000 Floridians registered to receive a medical license, the Department of Health has not been able to keep up with the demand, failing to implement many rules and regulations for a cannabis industry.
“A lot of the implementation of the law still simply has not happened, and has been going extraordinary slowly. The Department of Health has failed to get people their ID cards in a timely manner. There was a story just in the last couple of weeks that said there was almost 30,000 people waiting to get their identification cards because of technical issues with the office,” Pollara says.
This lack of progress has forced Florida’s legislature to threaten the DOH’s higher ups with a $1.9 million cut if they do not follow through with their legal obligations by July.
In response to this, the DOH has scheduled several workshops over the last few weeks. On Friday, the issue of pesticides was covered. A proposed rule by the DOH allows pesticides that are classified as “minimum-risk” to be used for growing and harvesting the plant, but, for Jodi James of Florida Cannabis Action Network, that is not enough.
“Right now there is no pesticide that has been approved for a product that is going to be concentrated. We do not have test results so that we can know that a pesticide that is being processed through the lungs, but not through the liver, are gonna be safe,” James says.
James understands the DOH has their hands tied when it comes to the use of pesticides, as it is legally required, but asks for transparency in the use of chemicals.
“I don’t wanna see long labels, but I wanna see great inserts. I want everything that goes on to every plant to be laid out for a consumer that is particularly sensitive, like the patients I represent. And at the end of the day I wanna make sure people aren’t doing R&D on my patients,” James says.
The next medical marijuana meeting the Department of Health will conduct is scheduled for next month.