Medical marijuana has officially been added to the agenda for this week’s special session.
Gov. Rick Scottissued a proclamation Tuesday afternoon expanding the three-day special session to include medical marijuana implementing legislation. The announcement came shortly after Scott met with House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who carried the implementing legislation during the regular session.
“Medical marijuana was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016, and I believe that it is the role of the Florida Legislature to determine how to best implement this approved constitutional amendment,” said Scott in a statement. “I am glad that both the Florida Senate and House are moving toward crafting legislation to help patients, and I have added medical marijuana to the call for special session.”
Sen. Rob Bradley has filed legislation that will be taken up this week. During a brief floor session Wednesday, Rodrigues told members the bills appeared to “match up” with the House’s position. He expected a bill on the House floor by Thursday.
The agreement calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven that already hold a state license under the existing, limited cannabis program. Five new growers would be added for every 100,000 patients.
Retail facilities would be capped at 25; however, the cap on dispensaries will sunset in 2020.
“I know many members of the Legislature, including Senate President Joe Negron and Speaker Richard Corcoran, have worked hard on implementing Amendment 2 and I look forward to the Legislature passing a bill this week that puts Florida patients first,” said Scott in a statement.
The 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.
There are a number of pieces of unfinished business for the Florida Legislature this month; among them: agreeing on rules for medical cannabis.
The regular Legislative Session ended without complete agreement from the Senate and the House, especially on caps for retail dispensaries for licensed growers.
While the Special Session announced on Friday by Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron did not include explicit reference to medical marijuana as one of the issues to be addressed, there is appetite for resolving issues legislatively.
And a bit of a recalibration in Senate strategy, as POLITICO Florida reported Friday.
“It is my understanding that Sen. [Rob] Bradley will continue to be the bill sponsor in a Special Session,” Sen. Bill Galvano, the next Senate President, told POLITICO Florida.
“Leader [Wilton] Simpson is going to take more of a role in the negotiations on the issue as Majority Leader,” Galvano added.
We asked Sen. Bradley what the ramifications of that would be, in terms of process and policy.
“I wouldn’t read too much into the situation,” Bradley texted us Friday morning, regarding the Galvano quote.
“Simpson and I cross train on many issues and often work together to get them done. We are close friends and colleagues and I’m glad he’s involved to help bring this in for a landing,” Bradley added.
“The singular focus of the Senate is access to patients who deserve this medicine. The bill I present on the floor next week will likely be very similar to the versions that were 95% worked out with the House during regular session,” Bradley concluded.
With the pitched rhetoric of the Legislative Session being dialed down ahead of the Special Session on other issues, expect that medical cannabis will be yet another issue on which pragmatism ultimately prevails.
House Speaker Corcoran asserted Friday morning that the “House has communicated to … the Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call to address the implementation of the constitutional amendment approved by voters of the constitutional amendment approved by the voters during the 2016 election.”
Northeast Florida, like the rest of the state, waits for Gov. Rick Scott to review the budget from the Florida Legislature.
Scott has been typically vague on his real disposition on the budget: the new-school “Veto Corleone” hasn’t ruled out a full-on veto, or line item vetoes.
And in recent months, Gov. Scott has been a frequent visitor to the Jacksonville area, laying into the area’s State Representatives – who, except for Jay Fant, voted with House Speaker Richard Corcoran on incentive votes (Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida).
Will those votes (Faustian bargains for many freshman legislators) affect Scott’s dispensation on regional projects?
The Governor won’t say. But here’s what’s at stake, county by county.
Of all the counties in the region, Baker has the least to worry about in terms of vetoes.
The most ambitious ask: $2.75M for a road project.
However, it is worth noting that Baker’s State Representative, Republican Elizabeth Porter, was targeted as recently as march by robocalls from Scott’s political committee, “Let’s Get to Work.”
“Unfortunately, your state representative … is playing politics with Florida’s jobs … voted to decimate Florida’s tourism and jobs programs. And that will destroy our economy and lead to higher taxes,” the ad said.
Also targeted in the aforementioned March robocall: Clay Republican Travis Cummings, who was set up for more than a soupcon of Scott scorn anytime the Governor was in the Jacksonville media market.
“How could somebody do this … are any of these jobs expendable? Call Travis, ask him ‘why would you do this’,” Scott urged in March, after Cummings went against incentives in a committee.
Clay’s asks include lots of small-dollar projects – relatively speaking – including money for a community theater and for road resurfacing projects.
However, there are two long bombs mixed in with the dink-and-dunk passing game: $13.3M for the St. Johns River and Keystone Lakes projects, and $103.7M for right of way land acquisition for the First Coast Expressway.
Don’t expect these to hit the cutting room floor; a powerful ally and friend of Gov. Scott, Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, carried these measures through the Senate.
“After years of researching and talking and planning, we now have actual funding to start addressing the needs of these wonderful natural resources that define our region,” Bradley remarked regarding the $13.3M project earlier this month.
A few days later, at an interminably long mid-May ribbon cutting event on a sun-baked blacktop in Jacksonville, Bradley addressed that issue again … managing to mix contrition and levity.
“We didn’t get things with this budget,” Bradley said. “Governor, I wish we could have done better this session.”
“Whatever you do, we understand,” the Clay County Senator said. “Just don’t do anything about the Keystone Lakes though.”
The paradox here: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is a friend and political ally of Gov. Scott; the local legislative delegation – Republicans and Democrats alike – went against Scott on incentive votes.
One of those legislators, Rep. Jason Fischer, described the just-wrapped Legislative Session as a “strong” one, where “everybody got to eat.”
Problem is, of course, that until Scott signs the budget, that food can be taken out of everybody’s mouths.
Among the victuals: almost $14M for projects related to the Jacksonville International Airport; various bridge projects in areas of town that always get jobbed out on infrastructural spending; cultural grants and delinquency diversion programs; road projects, including $10M for arterial traffic management on the Buckman Bridge, and $25.9M for A1A; $15.5M for JAXPORT dredging; $73M for Florida State College at Jacksonville; $154M for University of North Florida.
Mayor Curry likely will be the key here to ensuring that Jacksonville comes out OK in the end.
Of the 38 total projects for Nassau County, just four are asks over $1.6M.
The most expensive project: $11M for road resurfacing on SR 15 (US 1). There are also two projects related to the port of Fernandina Beach: $3.65M for dredging, and $3M for a crane and warehouse.
While Rep. Cord Byrd hasn’t exactly ingratiated himself with Gov. Scott, it’s hard to see where significant vetoes come from in Nassau County’s appropriations asks.
St. Johns County
St. Johns County’s appropriations asks are different than many of the other counties in the region.
The biggest asks: $4.8M for Medicaid rate enhancement for Flagler Hospital, and $5.5M for VPK.
For a handful of road projects, requests are also modest, for roadway resurfacing, preliminary engineering studies, and right of way land acquisition.
The county is dealing with the pains brought on by rapid growth. And while the Governor’s veto pen could hurt constituents of Paul Renner and Cyndi Stevenson, there somehow seems to be less on the line for SJC than the other counties in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.
Senate President JoeNegron has yet to decide to join House Speaker RichardCorcoran in calling for a Special Session on medical marijuana implementation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Negron, a Stuart Republican, is still “in the process of having discussions with senators in response to the memorandum he sent last Thursday,” KatieBetta said in an email.
Negron had sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to guide state Health regulators on the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.
An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.
A state law provides that the “President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, by joint proclamation duly filed with the Department of State, may convene the Legislature in special session.”
“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” Corcoran told Scott. “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.
Others chiming in on social media for a Special Session include Sens. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican; Dana Young, a Tampa Republican; Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican; and Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who also penned the only “formal response” as of Friday.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan have called for a session on medical marijuana, with Morgan doing so in a nearly nine-minute video on Twitter. Morgan has been behind the amendment since it was first filed for 2014, when it failed to get enough votes.
“Defending the Constitution and enforcing the rule of law is something that can keep me up at night and get me out of bed in the morning,” Fant said Monday.
“The Legislature has been a wonderful experience, but I’m more of someone who likes to administer public policy for an organization, as opposed to standing on the soapbox and screaming all the time, which is what we have to do in the Legislature,” Fant added.
So Fant is interested in “enforcing the rule of law,” rather than making laws — an important point.
“Culturally, there seems to be a lot of pop culture bent against law enforcement, kind of neo-1960s dismissal of our law enforcement people,” he said. “I think that’s a harmful trend, and I hate to see people go after our guys and girls in the blue.”
Johnson is known for virulent anti-homosexual rhetoric, which has even been an embarrassment to fellow Republicans.
Fant’s campaign asserts that Johnson is “not a hire.” Fine. But why was he the point of contact for the launch for his campaign?
Al Lawson has ‘favorite son’ town hall in Gadsden County
U.S. Rep. Lawson may have a learning curve in “Dirty Duval.” But he is golden, a “favorite son” in Gadsden County, according to the Havana Herald.
Highlights? There was some new info from his town hall last week.
Georgia Rep. John Lewis has been mentoring freshman legislators, Lawson said.
“He is truly there to help us get a chance to congregate as freshmen,” he said.
Lawson also discussed food deserts and nutritional deprivation, noting that some school students are hurting so bad for a decent meal that “kids on Fridays put food in their backpacks because they might have no other food on weekends.”
As you can see below, hunger was also a theme in a Jacksonville appearance.
Lenny Curry committee makes it rain in April
April was a big month for Jacksonville Mayor Curry, as he was making the final sale of his pension reform to the Jacksonville City Council.
To that end, his political committee [“Build Something That Lasts”] spent big: $122,000.
Of that money, $100,000 went to ad buys — which facilitated an effective television ad that drove people to call the Jacksonville City Council and show support.
The ad worked: pension reform passed without a no vote.
Curry secured $55,000 of donations in April, with Tom Petway, Michael Munz and John Rood giving.
The committee has roughly $230,000 cash on hand, and with Curry staying put in Jacksonville after withdrawing from the CFO search, he will have time to replenish the coffers.
Paul Renner delivers big for Flagler, St. Johns dune restoration
When Flagler County commissioners recently workshopped an update on recovery from Hurricane Matthew, concerns arose over money appropriated by the Legislature.
More specifically, what was not being appropriated.
“I’m hearing we might not even come close to the $10 million we were hoping for,” Commission Chair Nate McLaughlin told FlaglerLive.com.
However, Republican state Rep. Renner, whose district includes all of Flagler County, came to the rescue. By the end of the 2017 Session, Renner secured $13.3 million for emergency repairs in his district.
But the money came with the catch, as far as Flagler is concerned: it would have to be shared between Flagler and St. Johns counties, leaving a certain uncertainty over how the Department of Environmental Protection will split the amount. The DEP oversees administering the money and of some of the beach-restoration work for Hurricane Matthew repairs, after the storm sheared off enormous chunks of beach sand and dunes in Flagler County.
“DEP will administer that based upon the county’s needs,” Renner said in an interview. “So, we believe that that in combination, with the possibility of some funds from the main beaches budget, will be adequate to cover the entirety of the local match in Flagler County.”
Laura Street Trio, Barnett Building in play
Good news for those wanting downtown development to continue on the upswing! The Florida Times-Union reports that Curry is committed to the renovation of the properties, and the city is willing to put in $9.8M in incentives to make that happen.
“With a keen focus on increasing economic development throughout the city, building public-private partnerships, and ensuring a return on the city’s investments to taxpayers, my administration has been able to successfully negotiate a redevelopment agreement where others have stalled and failed,” Curry asserted.
“Any redevelopment project I present to City Council will reflect a return to taxpayers,” Curry added. “This one is no exception.”
City incentives are “part of $78 million worth of work to turn the buildings into a mix of apartments, hotel rooms, restaurants, rooftop bar, bank and bodega market,” the T-U report added.
All of this would be done within about three years.
School Board, Nikolai Vitti rail against HB 7069
Newsflash: the Duval County School Board and the state Legislature are sideways on education reform, with board members and outgoing Superintendent Vitti messaging hard against changes Monday before the legislature approved the bill, as WJXT reports.
“Not only are we underfunded for infrastructure, but we will see less funding and an acceleration of funding to charter schools,” Vitti said. “This “reform” is — I call it reform because that’s what the Legislature is calling it — it’s not reform. It’s hijacking of the legislative process to favor charter schools. In other words, to favor the few over the many.”
The controversial bit of the bill: the “Schools of Hope” program, incentivizing charter schools taking on students from failing schools — and upsetting the funding formula.
Police Union 1, ‘F— the Police’ 0
In the wake of a springtime clash between anti-Trump protesters and Jacksonville police officers, a very public clash soon ensued on Facebook between Jacksonville Ethics Commission nominee Leslie Jean-Bart and Fraternal Order of Police head Steve Zona.
That clash — which involved, among other things, Jean-Bart defending protesters using the inflammatory phrase “f — the police” by posting that “Also, F*** the Police is protected free speech. I’m not going to condemn it because there is no reason to do so” — has now reached the denouement.
And it appears Jean-Bart will not be moving toward the Ethics Commission anytime soon, with the City Council withdrawing the bill that would put her on.
The nomination was withdrawn at the request of its sponsor: Public Defender Charles Cofer.
In the words of Ice-T: “Freedom of speech … just watch what you say.”
Save the date: Florida Foundation for Liberty is hosting a fundraising reception for Rep. Renner Thursday, May 25. Reception begins 5:30 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. #3500, in Jacksonville. RSVP to Katie Ballard at (954) 803-3942 or email@example.com.
UF Health North cuts ribbon on new inpatient hospital
The 92-bed tower is connected by walkways to the current medical office complex, the heart of the campus, which has been open since 2015. The new hospital consists of five floors, four for patients with all private rooms.
There is a 20-bed unit dedicated to labor and delivery and other women’s services, a 24-bed floor dedicated to the intensive care, two 24-bed floors devoted to general medical inpatients, and one floor of administrative services, a chapel, a cafeteria and more.
Night at the Zoo
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be in a whole new light with Night at the Zoo events from 6:30-10 p.m. Live music, food trucks, cash bars, and visitors will have a chance to see animal exhibits until 8:30 p.m. on June 23, July 14, July 28 and August 11.
There will be animal encounters, keeper talks, bounce houses and more. Tickets for members are $5/adults and $3/children (3-12); nonmembers are $10/adult and $5/children (3-12). Child 2 and under: free (but still require a ticket) Tickets are available by pre-sale, online purchase only.
JAXPORT adds Hans-Mill Corporation
Hans-Mill Corporation, one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of metal and plastic household products, is opening a state-of-the-art manufacturing center near the JAXPORT North Jacksonville marine terminals.
The 121,000-square-foot facility IS for manufacturing, assembling and distributing stainless steel trash cans and plastic household products sold at major retailers around the world.
Hans-Mill will use JAXPORT to import materials used in its manufacturing process from Asia, as well as for the import of finished goods for U.S. distribution. In addition, the company has been granted permission to operate within JAXPORT’s Foreign Trade Zone No. 64. The facility, which already serves as the company’s headquarters, stands for an $11 million investment in Northeast Florida, creating 23 new, direct jobs.
Some good news for fans of minor league baseball in Jacksonville, from First Coast News.
The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are showing a 73 percent YOY increase in attendance — a validation of the once-controversial and once-derided change of the team’s name from the Suns.
Purists balked. But with new promotions and a new look, baseball is juiced once again at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
That’s the biggest increase in turnstile traffic in minor league baseball. The second biggest has a local connection as well: the Columbia Fireflies. The South Carolina A club features Tim Tebow at the plate, and casual fans at the gate, with a 43 percent uptick year over year.
Armada remain undefeated thanks to late equalizer
The Jacksonville Armada FC recorded a late comeback to draw with the New York Cosmos Saturday night. In the 95th minute, Zach Steinberger nailed a clutch goal to give the Armada FC (2W-4D-0L) a 1-1 draw with the New York Cosmos (2W-3D-1L) after trailing from the 23rd minute onward.
Kartik Krishnaiyer reports that New York’s early goal came courtesy of Javi Marquez. Jacksonville goalkeeper Caleb Sewell-Patterson had a great game once again making key saves to keep the Armada within striking distance.
“That performance was the best performance I’ve ever seen from the Armada against the New York Cosmos, who are one of the best teams in the NASL over the past few years,” said head coach Mark Lowry. The Cosmos have won 3 of the last 4 NASL Championships.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Armada Midfielder Kevan George. “We’re a team. Our chemistry and grind from preseason is what brought us to this point. Are we surprised that we tied the game? No, we knew we had it in us. We just have to keep going and get wins.”
Jacksonville faces North Carolina FC in NASL play Saturday. The Armada will be looking to continue its undefeated run and jump back into first place with a win. Jacksonville has drawn four straight games.
Meanwhile, the Armada FC learned who they’d face in next week’s US Open Second Round. Miami United will be the opposition after a late winner sunk Boca Raton FC. Local playing legend Nacho scored the game-winning goal in the 87th minute for Miami in a game where Boca Raton recorded the majority of chances, particularly in the second half. Miami’s goal against the run of play was impressive and showed the side could counterattack well, something Lowery and the Armada FC will have to account for in next week’s matchup.
The match will take place Tuesday, May 16, at Hialeah’s Ted Hendricks Stadium.
There are winners and losers in every budget process, and Sen. Rob Bradley asserted Thursday that Clay County was a winner this year.
“It was a challenging session,” said Bradley. “I’m incredibly proud of what the Clay County legislative delegation was able to accomplish for this community.”
Bradley, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources, pushed for and got recurring funds of $13.3 million earmarked for water replenishment in the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights Lake Region.
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.
“In order to meet the standard and prove something by clear and convincing evidence, a party must prove that it is substantially more likely than not that it is true,” it says. “This standard is employed in both civil and criminal trials.”
The Republican majority in the Legislature wants to shift the burden to prosecutors, making them disprove a claim of self-defense. A state Supreme Court decision had put the onus on the defendant to show self-defense.
Democrats have inveighed against the measure, saying it would encourage bad actors to injure, even kill, and then claim self-defense.
The stand your ground law, enacted in 2005, allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.
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 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.”
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.