Saint Peters Blog: New wrinkles in Florida’s medical marijuana implementation raise doubts, concerns

I’ve not been shy about expressing my concerns about the implementation of Amendment 2, many of which stem from the fact that I’m the father of a young daughter. From that perspective, it’s imperative to me that Florida exercises necessary prudence and caution while putting in place the mandate from voters on medical marijuana.

I’m not ashamed to say: “Surely, not in my backyard!”

Call me NIMBY. Call me old fashioned. Just don’t call me Shirley.

The existing seven licenses to grow marijuana in Florida have, for the most part, taken a similar stance as I have on a responsible roll out of the new law. They have good reason to do so: a cautious, slowly phased-in, expansion of medical marijuana in Florida is good for their bottom lines.

That may seem greedy or cynical to some, but I don’t think it is. The intersection of philosophy and self-interest tends to be a strong impetus for the creation of public policy, and that’s a good thing.

But self-interest being self-interest you also can’t expect that intersection to remain static on a big piece of public policy, with big dollars at stake, like medical marijuana.

Certain recent events have given me a reason to take a step back on some of these issues and evaluate the philosophical honesty of the approach of Florida’s current Dispensing Organizations, soon to be reregistered as MMTCs under Amendment 2.

Let me start by saying that I accept the basic premise put forward by these DO’s and legislators that they’ve built businesses by a foregone conclusion that our nascent medical marijuana system would expand dramatically – either under Amendment 2’s passage or legislative action. And they have done so at significant expense, without much in the way of return, thus far.

Now, that investment alone doesn’t necessarily justify a policy of abject protectionism in implementing the constitution, but again, as it intersects with the notion of caution and public safety, the case gets stronger to do so.

Except for some new wrinkles.

This week, Canadian mega-marijuana corporation, Aphria Inc., announced a deal to essentially buy CHT Medical outright, one of the seven licensed DOs. They’re doing so with $25 million cash, while launching a $35 million raise, valuing the company at $177 million (!!!). CHT only began selling low-THC marijuana to patients in January, mind you.

As I outlined in my last piece on this subject, there was an intense and rigorous application process to select those current license holders. Particularly in the case of CHT’s apparent wholesale unloading of their license to Aphria, would essentially circumvent that entire vetting process. These investors could be great news for Florida, we just don’t know, since they didn’t go through the process like everyone else.

Second, it strikes me as a tad intellectually inconsistent to argue for sympathy over their investment in the Florida market in one breath, while raising big foreign investment dollars in the next. (And CHT isn’t alone in its fundraising, just the most public. As the Miami Herald has reported, almost all of the licensees are currently raising capital from investors.)

Finally, let’s think about the pitch these companies naturally would have to make to secure these sorts of massive capital infusions. Legal marijuana is big business, to be sure, but it’s also an industry in its infancy that is handcuffed in many ways by the glaring conflicts between state laws and federal law, where marijuana remains a DEA Schedule 1 substance. That’s why you still don’t see traditional money players like Goldman and Citi and their ilk playing in this space.

So why the big investments and insane valuations? The answer lies more in the licenses granted by Florida, and less in the P&Ls of the companies in question.

Under current law, after having gone through the rigorous application process, posting a $5 million bond, building growing, processing and retail facilities, and receiving DOH approvals to cultivate and then distribute medical marijuana, licensees can pretty much do whatever they want.

Most states with some form of legal marijuana require separate applications and licenses for each individual business operation. A grow has its own license, retail dispensaries are individually licensed, etc. Other states with vertical integration, like Florida, allow multiple operations under a single license. In those states, the maximum number of retail facilities that can be operated under a license is limited to 3 or less (except for New York, which allows 4).

In Florida? There is no limit.

That’s right, folks.

What the press corps and I have likewise been derelict in reporting on, is that our present cohort of marijuana growers in Florida can open unlimited retail facilities – “pot shops” in the parlance of this issue – across the state. And that’s precisely what they are planning to do with all of this new capital they are raising by the truckload.

A pot shop on every corner? Without action to fix this glaring loophole (heh), that’s where we’re headed.

Not in my backyard.

By Peter Schorsch

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  • Kim Scronce
    commented 2017-05-11 15:28:13 -0400
    Peter, your daughter will definitely be far better off riding the opioid, heroin, whatever else has been fabricated by science train than using what mother nature grew naturally. Why did the American Indians call their pipes “piece pipes”? Nothing from science to be found in them I’m sure
  • Kim Scronce
    commented 2017-05-11 15:24:11 -0400
    Do it REALLY SLOWLY, so all the opioids are still flowing on the streets and killing people daily and torturing those of us that have to take the opioids and they DO NOT WORK!! I guess everyone makes lots of money when we pee in a cup twice a year for you. Thank you Florida for letting your citizens continue to suffer. Rick Scott’s​ should know better after being involved​ in the medical field doing whatever he was doing. I wake up every day pissed off that I woke up again. I hate the suffering for all of us
  • David Sharpe
    commented 2017-05-04 23:49:01 -0400
    Marijuana is the least of your parenting issues on drugs: Oxy, one of the most misused (legal) drugs readily available on the street, date rape drugs, easily found in any metro area, heroin, the largest growing drug of preference amongst teens, alcohol, far more addicting than marijuana and magnitudes more die from it than other drugs. It’s fairly accurate when people quote that NO ONE has ever died from a over-dose of marijuana … just the collateral effects. The proposal for Florida in no way supports pot shops on every corner, that’s just scare tactics. You know the best time spent on this subject: honest, open, and frequent two-way discussions with your children about the choices they will be faced with – you cannot protect them from this by trying to stop availability. The U.S. has spend millions to do so with minimal results. Educate your child, tell them if you abused drugs, tell them how they could ruin their lives forever. Do you best as a parent with great communications. That’s your big return action.

    Been there on all 3 sides: parents abusing, abusing myself, and teaching my children the whole picture about drugs with painful honesty.
  • bill weatherholt
    commented 2017-05-04 18:38:01 -0400
    They are setting up a florida cartel the way they are making up the rules
  • Reg Voter
    commented 2017-05-02 18:17:09 -0400
    I rather seriously doubt they are considering a pot shop in “Your” back yard. That said, your willingness to limit availability and access to others reflects an immeasurable selfishness. As for your child, it is your responsibility to raise your kid and teach responsibility. It is not as if there is currently no marijuana in the streets and schools. These new laws will very likely reduce that. Are you ever going to let your child drive? Cars are very dangerous and kill thousands every day. Drink alcohol? Before or after 18? Beware the dangers. Ever let your kid go near the water, hope you taught her to swim. Life is dangerous, Parents should teach their kids to be prepared for hazards they are likely to encounter as adults. So they in turn can teach their kids one day.



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