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Calls grow for Special Session on medical marijuana

The leader behind getting Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment passed last year is calling on Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s leaders to hold a special session to get rules enacted.

Orlando attorney John Morgan posted an eight-minute video on Tuesday and said it is Scott’s obligation to convene a special session to finish up where the legislature fell short. The bill collapsed on the final day of session when the Senate and House could not agree on how many retail dispensaries a medical marijuana treatment center could open.

Senate leaders on Monday said they would not discourage a special session.

Amendment 2, which was passed by 71 percent of voters last November, was enacted on Jan. 3. Rules must be in place by July and implemented by October.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Samantha Pollara: In defense of my big brother Ben Pollara

For the last five years, my big brother, Ben Pollara, has fought to bring medical marijuana treatment to suffering citizens in the state of Florida.

He acted as campaign manager for United for Care, which was the chief facilitator of Amendment 2’s passage November, and has since worked tirelessly to craft and pass fair legislation to enact it.

His goal was a feasible plan for implementation that not only best represented the interests of sick patients, but also protected and encouraged diversity in the burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Currently, only seven companies have been licensed and approved by the Florida Department of Health to grow and dispense marijuana. In most states where medical marijuana is legal, retail dispensaries are required to be licensed individually.

However, some states, including Florida, permit multiple dispensaries to operate under a single license. Most other states impose caps on licensees, limiting the number of retail operations to either 3 or 4 on a single license, depending on the state.

My brother’s position has always been that setting caps on the number of retail operations is essential to ensuring a free and diverse market for medical marijuana in Florida.

Without these caps, the seven current licensees would be given carte blanche to overrun the market in cartel style, using massive funding capabilities to effectively shut out smaller operations at the outset. That’s basically equivalent to allowing the Wal-Marts and Targets of medical marijuana first entry into the market, without giving Mom and Pop operations a chance to gain a toehold in the industry.

Ultimately, a system of total control via these seven “cartels” would be harmful not only to the market, but to the patients as well, through artificially high prices and product homogeneity as a result of this lack of competition.

In the process of debating the bill, HB 1397, this also became the sticking point for legislators. A version of the bill passed by the Florida Senate would have allocated five dispensaries to each licensee, and allowed each one more for every additional 75,000 patients.  The bill put forth by the House of Representatives, however, contained no such restrictions. The Legislature could not come to an agreement on these terms, and the bill died in the final hours of Friday’s session.

While my brother was adamant that caps were in the best interest of both the market and the patients, he was not so uncompromising that he would have deliberately risked the passage of this bill in the Florida Legislature.

He would have done anything in his power to pass any version of it, rather than see the responsibility fall to the Department of Health, which will disproportionately favor the current licensees.

What ultimately killed the bill was discord and failure at the highest levels of legislature. It’s worth noting that the team of lobbyists working on behalf of the seven currently licensed “cartels” was headed up by Michael Corcoran, Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran’s brother. As a result of this connection, the House’s intractability on the issue of caps seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

To add insult to injury, despite having done everything he personally could to ensure the legislation’s success, my brother has faced a barrage of vicious personal attacks from his former partner and mentor, John Morgan, who places the blame entirely on Ben’s shoulders.

Mr. Morgan has repeatedly published harassing tweets directed at Ben, (one in which he even went so far as to refer to my brother as disloyal Fredo, from the Godfather, complete with the hashtag #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.) and has erroneously accused­­­ him of having an improper financial stake in attempting to pass a version of the bill that included caps.

No one has worked harder to ensure that sick patients in Florida have access to medical marijuana than my big brother, and no one knows that better than John Morgan.

Mr. Morgan ought to be ashamed of himself.


Samantha Pollara is a vice president of the Hillsborough Young Democrats.

John Morgan posts Twitter video calling for marijuana special session

Medical marijuana champion John Morgan turned to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to push for a special session to implement the medical marijuana law and he called for the free market – not the Florida Legislature – to decide how many dispensaries there would be.

Morgan, who earlier this week had called for a special session after the House and Senate failed to work out a final implementation bill over the weekend, turned his pitch to social media, seeking to convince Gov. Rick Scott that the people of Florida will demand he call a special session to finish the legislative work to back Florida’s medical marijuana legalization.

The Orlando lawyer who chaired United For Care tactfully praised Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron. But he also reminded them that he spent four years pushing for medical marijuana and when he won, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution was approved with the largest voter margin of victory ever seen in a statewide medical marijuana initiative in America.

“Let’s get this done. Let’s come back to special session. Two or three days. Let’s do what’s right. Le’ts do the people’s work. They sent you guys there for a reason. they sent you there to do their work. They trusted you. And with 71 percent of the vote, there’s no doubt what’s the will of the people,” Morgan said in an eight-minute video. “Let freedom ring. Let capitalism prosper. Let’s put people before profit. Let’s do this for the people of Florida.”

The capitalism line was one Morgan, a Democrat and potential gubernatorial candidate, returned to several times in his speech, as if trying to offer himself as the champion of capitalism that Republicans had abused. The house and Senate versions ultimately collided, crashed and burned when the two houses could not agree on how many dispensaries would be allowed statewide, he said.

“Who cares?” Morgan,  decried. “Once upon a time there were tanning saloons all over Florida, and then there weren’t. There were laser hair removal places all over Florida. then there wasn’t, because the free market ferrets it all out. The cream rises to the top, and the weak don’t make it.”

Morgan also made an open threat to sue if the final implementation bill does not include the opportunity for patients to smoke marijuana.

“The lack of smoke. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “And if it passes without smoke, I’ll sue for that, and win, because in my amendment it said, ‘Smoking is not allowed in public places.’ So everybody understood that smoke was to be allowed. It’s just another act of the Legislature ignoring the will of the people.”

Tre’ Evers: On the contrary — Rick Scott, John Morgan real winners of 2017 Legislative Session

Don’t pick a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel — or so the saying goes. Well, it’s a good thing Peter Schorsch doesn’t actually buy ink, because I’ve got a bone to pick with him.

Rick Scott and John Morgan could be considered “losers” only in a Tallahassee-centered universe.

These two guys are among the best-known (i.e., most hated or loved) names in Florida. No legislator — in either party — enjoys anywhere near the cachet of these twin political titans, whether you measure by name recognition, professional success or personal wealth.

Sure, their legislative agendas fared poorly. However, Tallahassee’s “session thinking” is astonishingly shortsighted. Look at the long game to understand how this year’s legislative combat strengthened both Scott and Morgan. Their priorities remain wildly popular with voters while the ideas of their opponents have lost ground with all but the chattering classes. Scott wanted incentives to create more jobs plus money to fix the Herbert Hoover Dam that would help the Everglades and Morgan wanted to implement the medical marijuana initiative, all of which were foiled by lawmakers.

Scott’s legislative losses are fuel for his political persona. Consider: In 2010, Rick Scott came from nowhere. A conservative, tea party firebrand, he blasted both parties on his way to a self-funded victory and then won a bruising re-election, spending even more of his own money. The scars of those campaigns left Scott with a battered approval rating, except among Republicans, where his numbers have consistently exceeded 75 percent.

Bashing insiders — even those within his party — is how Rick Scott won statewide in 2010. Republican lawmakers just built him a platform to do it again in 2018. A few months ago, it would have been tough to believe that the GOP’s legislative leadership would attack the most popular Republican in Florida, giving him cause to travel the state promoting jobs and mainstreaming his image. But that’s what happened.

Every week, Governor Scott appears in front cameras blasting Republican insiders while promoting jobs with local business people. Meanwhile, he raises money for his political committee and places millions of dollars of TV advertising. Best of all, he gets to run against the “Tallahassee politicians,” who few Floridians know but all instinctively mistrust.

Then there’s John Morgan — the best-known Democrat in Florida. Not only is Morgan’s face routinely plastered on billboards and TV ads across the Sunshine State, but his colorful, rant at Boots and Buckles (in which he exhorted young people to vote for his Medical Marijuana amendment) is an enduring reminder that his outspoken, charismatic brand of political celebrity appeals to many. He failed in 2014 but succeeded in 2016. Now, he’s the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Governor, even though he may not run.

Again, consider the long game. John Morgan isn’t going anywhere, and this Tallahassee setback is merely political fuel; it will empower him to either sue the Legislature, run for Governor or both. Either way, he’ll be in the headlines. And to Republicans hoping John Morgan runs because he’s said and done crazy things: You must have missed the 2016 election.

Democrats love to hate Rick Scott and Republicans love to hate John Morgan. However, the 2017 legislative session made both men more palatable to those who hate them and more powerful among those who love them. So, what looks like a setback on Adams Street is likely to play well in Paisley, Palatka, Palm Beach or as the saying goes, Peoria — making Rick Scott and John Morgan the biggest winners of the session.

Joe Negron open to special session on medical marijuana

Senate President Joe Negron hasn’t closed the door to a special session to tackle medical marijuana.

The Stuart Republican said Monday he thinks the Legislature has a responsibility to be involved in the implementation of the 2016 medical marijuana, and said the Senate would discuss its options with the House and Gov. Rick Scott. His remarks came after the adjournment of the 2017 Legislative Session, during which lawmakers failed to pass an implementing bill.

“I think that’s something that now that session is over and our budget passed that we’ll confer with the House and governor, and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” he told reporters Monday. “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so that’s something we’ll look at.”

While lawmakers agreed on most key parts of an implementing bill, negotiations collapsed Friday, the final day the Legislature could take up policy issues, after the chambers couldn’t agree on the number of retail locations medical marijuana treatment centers could operate.

The House voted 99-16 on a bill that put the limit at 100 per treatment center. The Senate, which limited storefronts to five per license holder, did not take it up.

That now means the Department of Health will be charged with coming up with rules for patients, caregivers, doctors and treatment centers by July 3 and have them implemented by October.

Several advocates, including John Morgan, the bombastic Orlando Democrat who poured millions into the medical marijuana campaign, have called for a special session to address the issue. Morgan, who had a very public fall-out with his former ally Ben Pollara over proposed legislation, has said he would urge Scott to call a special session to implement the amendment.

He isn’t the only one calling for a special session. On Monday, Gwen Graham, a former U.S. representative and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, called for a special session, saying “failure to enact Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana, which passed with 71.32 percent approval in 2016, is just the latest example of the Legislature ignoring Florida voters.”

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” she said in a statement. “Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Ben Pollara’s emotional mea culpa on John Morgan split, marijuana bill failure

Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida For Care, spoke out Monday afternoon over the well-publicized split with Orlando uber-attorney John Morgan over the failed medical marijuana implementation bill.

On Friday night, the Florida Legislature killed HB 1397, a bill to enact the medical marijuana amendment approved by 71 percent of voters in November. Morgan, who spearheaded and bankrolled much of Amendment 2 in both 2014 and 2016, puts blame for the bill’s failure squarely on Pollara’s shoulders.

“Ben Pollara fucked the patients,” Morgan told bluntly Saturday morning. “The person who strengthened the cartels (the seven existing licenses permitted to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in Florida and opposed Florida for Care as the Legislature debated implementing Amendment 2) the most is Ben Pollara.”

In a lengthy, emotional email Monday Pollara explained some of the motives behind what happened, and why the bill ultimately died — taking some (qualified) responsibility.

Much of the friction behind the final approval of the bill came in part from disagreement over the number of allowable medical marijuana treatment centers under the law. Lawmakers could not agree on how to best balance the needs of patients with that of licensees — refer to by some as “cartels” — authorized by the state to produce and distribute medical pot.

“The initial bill out of the House was horrendous,” Pollara wrote. “Partially drafted by Mel Sembler and Drug-Free America, it was severely restrictive and not only banned smokable, edible, and vapable forms of marijuana, but it also added onerous restrictions on patients, such as a 90- day waiting period and recertification period.”

Pollara said the House then took a position that strengthened the position existing licensees, allowing them to open unlimited storefronts around the state. On the other hand, the Senate attempted to limit the number of retail facilities a single MMTC (Medical Marijuana Treatment Center) could operate, so that “a more diverse, freer market” could develop.

“I advocated strongly for the Senate position, believing — as I still do — that it would result in better access for patients,” Pollara said. Unfortunately, it set off a “very intense lobbying battle on both sides” leading to neither side coming to terms in the end.

“Morgan is livid over this and blames me entirely for the failure to pass legislation this session,” Pollara continued. “I accept that I deserve some of that blame … However, the choices we faced were ‘bad,’ ‘worse’ and ‘the worst.’”

What happened, Pollara wrote, was “the worst.” And either way, there would be litigation.

Pollara expressed deep sadness over both the failure of the bill, and Morgan’s take on what happened.

“I love and respect John, without whom we would have never passed Amendment 2,” he said. “We’ve had very heated arguments in private over policy and strategy in the past, but in the end, we recovered and kept our eyes on the goal.”

Though “devastated” by Morgan’s anger, Pollara said he thoroughly understands it, and if their relationship never heals, “it will not erase the many years of fighting together [for] an incredibly important cause.”

Despite that, Pollara vows to continue the fight for “those principles until the will of 71 percent of Floridians is finally realized in this state.”

Signed “with love and sorrow,” Pollara concludes his letter by apologizing to all those he let down.

“And I want to — from the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of everyone at Florida for Care — thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do to advance this cause.”

Read it Pollara’s entire letter here:

John Morgan after medical marijuana legislation dies: Ben Pollara ‘f*cked’ the patients

The headline writers had an easy job Friday night after the Florida Legislature failed to agree on rules to enact the medical marijuana amendment supported by 71 percent of Florida voters last November.

“Medical marijuana deal goes up in smoke,” blared the Tallahassee Democrat.

“Up in smoke: Legislature can’t agree on medical marijuana,” read The Associated Press.

In other words, the headlines wrote themselves.

What has been harder to discern is why the deal fell apart. After all, the House and Senate had agreed on most key parts of a bill putting rules in place for Amendment 2. Only Friday did this deal collapse after the chambers could not agree on the number of retail dispensaries that a medical marijuana treatment center can operate.

So who is to blame?

If you ask John Morgan, the outspoken Orlando trial attorney who was the political godfather to the 2014 and 2016 pot initiatives, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Ben Pollara, who, before Friday, was Morgan’s perceived to be proconsul in Tallahassee as the executive director of Florida for Care, an advocacy organization which was formed, in part, to lobby the Legislature on issues related to the expanded use of medical marijuana. Pollara, a South Florida Democrat who works in both political and policy arenas, was also the campaign manager for United for Care, the chief political organization pushing for passage of Amendment 2.

“Ben Pollara fucked the patients,” Morgan said in an exclusive interview with Saturday morning. “The person who strengthened the cartels (a reference to the seven existing licenses permitted to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana in Florida and who have been on the opposite side of Florida for Care as the Legislature debated the implementation of Amendment 2) the most is Ben Pollara.”

As first — and astutely — reported by Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News, it was, in fact, the ‘pro-medical marijuana lobby’ that killed HB 1397.

It was Florida For Care which pushed the issue of limiting the number of dispensaries for growers at the last minute to force the state to issue more licenses to get rid of … the original seven growers allowed to dispense the drug across the state.

At the eleventh hour, insiders said, Florida For Care lobbyists Frank and Tracy Mayernick put pressure on Senate President Joe Negron over the cap numbers to ultimately force the state to issue more licenses and break up the seven initial medical cannabis growers.

The House voted 99-16 on a bill with the amended language (HB 1397) that put the limit at 100 per treatment center but the Senate, which limited it to five per treatment center, did not take it up.

Morgan says that rather than working toward a bill that would have allowed patients unfettered access to the burgeoning medical marijuana market, Pollara deployed the lobbyists (with whom Morgan says he has had no interaction) because Pollara was also working for “other prospective licensees” who wished to see the number of available licenses increased, but not so much that the market would be overrun.

To Morgan, this was an inherent conflict of interest.

Morgan said he only learned three weeks ago about Pollara’s outside clients. He said that lobbyist William Rubin brought up the issue when the two men discussed why the Legislature wasn’t moving quicker to implement Amendment 2.

Morgan says he confronted Pollara about the conflict of interest, at which point, Morgan says, Pollara began “screaming about the ‘evilness of the cartels.’ “

Pollara disputes Morgan’s accusations.

“The only compensation I have ever sought or received for work related to medical marijuana has been for political consulting and lobbying,” said Pollara. “I have always viewed any financial stake in the marijuana industry as a clear conduct with my roles as an advocate and leader of these two organizations.”

The first sign of trouble between Morgan and Pollara, who have for the last four years had a symbiotic political relationship, appeared Friday evening when Morgan tweeted, “My #ArmyOfAngels will be shocked to learn of the person responsible for this deadlock!” The tweet was accompanied by imagery from the iconic scene in the Godfather 2 when Al Pacino‘s character, Michael Corleone, confronts his older brother, Fredo (played by John Cazale) about his role in a failed assassination attempt.

In ominous terms, Morgan wrote #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.

In subsequent tweets — perhaps as the liquor began to flow at Casa Morgan — the always sharp-witted Morgan called out Pollara by his Twitter handle, setting off rampant speculation about what could have happened between the two one-time political allies.

By Saturday morning, Morgan was kaput with Pollara.

“The first thing I am going to do is make sure the people who helped me pass Amendment 2 know not to give Ben Pollara another red nickel,” Morgan said.

As for the future of the medical marijuana initiative, it will now be up to the Department of Health to come up with rules for patients, caregivers, doctors and treatment centers by July 3 and have them implemented by October.

Morgan said he would urge Gov. Rick Scott to call for a special session to implement Amendment 2.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

medical marijuana

Medical marijuana bill dead for 2017 Session

A bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment is dead, after the House amended the bill to increases the cap on retail facilities twentyfold.

The decision to send the bill back to the Senate kill the legislation (HB 1397), where senators were unwilling to increase the caps. Earlier in the day, Sen. Bill Galvano told POLITICO Florida the chance of passing was “slim to none, and I just saw slim leave town.”

The House voted 99-16 to send the bill back to Senate with an amendment that, among other things, caps the number of retail facilities per license holder at 100 shortly before 9 p.m.

That cap was 20 times higher than the number of retail facilities a licensed medical marijuana treatment center could have under the amended version of the bill the Senate sent back to the House on Thursday.

That version of the bill capped the number of stores per grower at five, and then allowed growers to add one additional store for every 75,000 patients that register with the medical use registry.

A lower cap, three retail locations per grower, was included in the Senate version of the bill (SB 406), and Sen. Rob Bradley, the sponsor of the Senate bill, said he believed proposal struck the right balance between allowing access and making sure there wasn’t “a dispensary on every corner.” Under the amended bill sent to the House on Thursday, there would have been more than 280 dispensaries in Florida by the time there were 300,000 qualified patients in Florida.

But the House did not include caps in any versions of its proposals, and Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the House sponsor, said this week that he did not believe limiting storefronts “would provide necessary access.”

Rodrigues told his colleagues that the 100 store cap was a compromise, rationalizing that they started at no caps.

“Considering we started with no limitations and they started with three, moving from infinity to 100 … was a compromise,” he said.

The more conservative House has an ally in John Morgan, the Orlando Democrat who poured millions into the campaign, at least when it comes to caps. Morgan took to Twitter to rail against the decision, saying the caps “limit patient access.”

“I believe in a free market economy,” he tweeted this week. “FL House bill with NO caps is the PEOPLE’s choice!”

The amended version of the bill the Senate sent back Thursday also stripped language making medical marijuana tax exempt, Rodrigues said from the beginning the House wanted to include in its bill.

The amendment the House adopted Friday put the tax exemption back in place, but with a sunset provision. Rodrigues took a shot at the Senate, saying he thought the cost of the tax exemption would be shared across the both chambers, but it “appears the Senate has spent all of the money on member projects.”

Legislative inaction now leaves the fate of implementation in the hands of the Department of Health. Under the constitutional amendment, the department has until July to put rules in places.

Senate President Joe Negron said it would have been preferable for the Legislature to act.

“This is an industry that will grow, based on what we see happening in other states,” he said. “I would expect that you will regularly see that issue addressed. And I would expect that the next legislative session will be no exception.”

Bradley said he expects the issue will “be a hot topic when we return and do our business next year.”

“We’ll get there. If we’ve learned anything about these constitutional amendments, whether the Legislature acts or not is irrelevant,” he said. “There will be court challenges, because people will not like what we did when we act, and they won’t like our inaction either. So I would expect court challenges no matter what we did.”

__ Staff writer Michael Moline contributed to this.

Senate approves amended medical marijuana bill, sends back to House for final vote

The Florida Senate voted 31-7 to approve an amended version of a medical marijuana bill, sending it back to the House for a final vote on Friday.

But with the clock running out on the 2017 Legislative Session, the fate of the proposal remains unclear. The Senate amended the House bill (HB 1397) to limit the number of retail facilities licensed growers can have and remove a provision that would have made medical marijuana exempt from sales tax.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who carried the Senate’s implementing bill (SB 406), acknowledged the change marked a difference of opinions between the two chambers.

“I will tell you, this is a disagreement we have at this time,” he said.

The bill approved Thursday initially caps the number of retail facilities a licensed medical marijuana treatment center can have at five. The bill allows growers to add one additional store for every 75,000 patients that registers with the medical marijuana use registry.

Bradley said the Senate believes the new language dealing with caps strikes the right balance of allowing access, but making sure there “won’t be a dispensary on every corner.” Under this scenario, Bradley said once there are 300,000 qualified patients in the state, there will be more than 280 dispensaries across the state.

The House bill did not include caps, and Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the House sponsor, has spoken out against caps.

The amendment also removes a provision included in the original House bill that would have made medical marijuana and medical marijuana delivery devices tax exempt. Rodrigues has long said the House measure would not include a tax on medical marijuana, saying he wanted to honor advocates requests to treat “medical marijuana like medicine.”

The revised version of the bill also calls on the state to issue 10 additional license this year. The state would then be required to issue five additional licenses within 6 months of 75,000 patients registering with the compassionate use registry.

While the bill passed, some members continued to express concern about the measure. Sen. Jeff Clemens, who voted for the bill, was among those who expressed concern that the bill prohibits patient from smoking, noting that it is the only way some patients can get relief.

“This has been the issue I probably struggled with the most,” said Bradley, who said research has shown inhaling smoke into the lungs is not a healthy act. “We shouldn’t slow walk it, because that’s not the Constitution demands, but we should proceed cautiously. It is a feature of pacing.”

The bill could be taken up by the House on Friday. Although session has been extended, legislative leaders have said the only issue to be discussed on Monday will be the 2017-18 budget.

That means Friday is likely the last chance lawmakers will have to pass implementing language this Legislative Session. The House is scheduled to go into Session at 1 p.m.

“All of this effort is about the patients, and too much time and discussion and focus has been about other things,” said Bradley. “At the end of the day, what this is about is some of our sickest, fellow citizens getting something they are entitled to receive.”

medical marijuana

Rob Bradley files amendment to House medical marijuana bill to add retail caps, 10 new licenses by Oct. 1

With just days left in the 2017 Legislative Session, the Senate appears poised to take up and amend the House version of a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

The Senate placed the House bill (HB 1397) on Thursday’s Special Order calendar on Wednesday evening. The Senate proposal (SB 406) was on Wednesday’s calendar, but was temporarily postponed. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley, spent most of the day at the rostrum presiding over the day’s business.

Bradley filed a 70-page, delete everything amendment to the House bill at 11:24 a.m. Thursday. The amendment, among other things, initially limits growers to five retail facilities, but allows for new retail facilities to come online as the patient population grows; calls on the Department of Health to issue 10 new licenses no later than Oct. 1; and issues five new licenses for every 75,000 patients.

“Sen. Bradley’s amendment to HB 1397 moves much closer to the House’s position than I wanted to see, but nevertheless has the full support of Florida for Care. Anyone who would say Bradley’s proposal is anything but a fair reasonable compromise between the two chambers are being unreasonable themselves,” said Ben Pollara, the executive director of Florida for Care in a statement. “This legislation must be headed to Gov. Scott by the end of the day tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians are counting on it.”

The House voted 105-9 on Tuesday to approve its version of the bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues. As it stands right now, the House bill allows pregnant women to use low-THC cannabis, allows patients to use low-THC cannabis in public, and allows the use of edibles and vaping.

It also quickens the pace by which the state issues licenses, grandfathering in current license holders and calling on the Department of Health to issue a license to any applicants denied a license, if the applicant was awarded “a license pursuant to an administrative or legal challenge.”

It then calls for the DOH to issue more licenses no later than July 1, 2018. Under the bill, one of the applicants in each region must be the “next-highest scoring applicant after the applicant or applicants that were awarded a license for that region; was not a litigant in an administrative challenge on or after March 31; and is not licensed in another region.” It also needs to issue a license to a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association.

The bill currently requires the department to issue four four additional licenses within six months after the registration of 100,000 active, qualified patients in compassionate use registry.

Bradley’s amendment seeks to change that. His amendment calls on the state to issue 10 additional license by Oct. 1, 2017. The state would then be required to issue five additional licenses within 6 months of 75,000 patients registering with the compassionate use registry.

The House bill currently does not include caps. Bradley’s amendment adds language that would initially cap the number of retail facilities a licensed grower can have at five. Under the proposed amendment, however, licensed growers can add one additional store for every 75,000 patients.

The most recent version of the Senate bill caps retail facilities at three facilities per grower, and does not allow for a growth as the patient population grows.

Pollara said he is in favor of the “number of dispensaries per license.”

“The last thing that I want is litigation, and I can assure you that I will not pursue it as a result of these caps,” he said in a statement. “Bradley’s proposal would allow for the marijuana industry to grow alongside the patient population, providing competition and reasonable access.”

Pollara urged the Senate to “adopt this amendment and send this legislation back to the House as soon as possible.”

The Senate could take up the proposal later this afternoon.

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