Florida sugar growers are pushing back hard on accusations that “Big Sugar and Big Citrus” had a hand in writing legislation to expand access to medical marijuana.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that that tucked into sweeping legislation on medical marijuana is “preferential treatment to companies that promise to convert orange juice factories and other citrus-processing facilities into marijuana grow sites.”
According to the Times, lawmakers want to replenish Florida’s citrus industry, which has been struggling after seasons of devastating citrus greening affecting crops and the rural communities that rely on oranges and grapefruits.
“It’s clear the language is written to benefit specific groups and specific companies,” Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens told the Times. “They know who is going to benefit. We don’t. And they are writing a bill that benefits these groups.”
Winter Park Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith chimed in on Twitter: “Big Sugar getting special perks + incentives in cannabis bill! Why am I not surprised? Biz as usual here!” Smith represents House District 49, which covers parts of Orlando.
However, growers are aggressively fighting back on the claim, asserting there is absolutely no connection between the sugar industry and the issue of medical marijuana.
In a statement Friday, U.S. Sugar representative Judy Sanchez called the accusations “completely inaccurate.”
“A recent report from the Tampa Bay Times suggesting medical marijuana legislation was written to benefit U.S. Sugar is completely inaccurate,” Sanchez said. “Our company has NOT been engaged in any way with any member of the Florida Legislature regarding medical marijuana.”
The state Senate passed its version of medical marijuana implementation bill Friday, on the last scheduled day of the three-day Special Session. The bill is now headed to the house.