Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

Romano: Tallahassee is late, and lame, on medical marijuana

Voters gave them a solution.

Others states have given them a road map to follow.

And still there are people in Tallahassee who seem hell-bent on fouling up Florida's medical marijuana program with unnecessary and unwieldy regulations.

It doesn't have to be this way, and it shouldn't be this way. More than half the nation is moving forward with medical marijuana, and more than 70 percent of Florida voters agreed it was the smart and compassionate thing to do by passing Amendment 2 last fall.

Yet the state's Department of Health has weighed in with proposals that defy the language passed in the amendment. And some lawmakers are talking about conditions that will almost certainly make it harder and more expensive for patients to get their medication.

Meanwhile, parents such as Clearwater's Dani Hall are left worrying about a battle they thought had already been fought and won.

Both of Hall's sons, ages 11 and 13, are autistic, and she has been waiting for marijuana's legalization to combat the anxiety, depression, rage and other issues associated with their condition. She's known other parents who have gone out of state for medical marijuana products, but she instead chose to advocate for Amendment 2's passage and remain within the law.

"I simply can't take the risk of having my kids taken away from me if we ever got arrested,'' Hall said. "That's the crazy thing. We've done everything right, we got the amendment passed and now we're still fighting all these little battles all over the place. It's like two steps forward, and one step back.''

There are a number of potential problems with some of the regulations being talked about in Tallahassee, but three stand above the rest:

1. As they did with Charlotte's Web — a modified form of medical marijuana with a small list of eligible patients — some lawmakers want to limit the number of growers in the state.

Never mind that this is antithetical to the state's normal free-market obsession, it could also create a supply/demand problem that would make prices soar and conceivably send patients to the black market.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has proposed a bill that would add growers as the state's patient list increased, but Amendment 2 guru Ben Pollara says the state's patient-to-grower ratio would still be five or six times higher than most other states. And there's also the problem of giving the first round of growers a head start on signing agreements with municipalities for dispensaries.

"What we are creating is the definition of a cartel,'' said Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

2. The Department of Health proposal would limit the number of ailments eligible for marijuana and put the list in the hands of the state Board of Medicine. The amendment specifically says individual doctors should have the authority to make those decisions.

3. Language in some of the proposals could also make doctors wary of signing up for the approved list of physicians who can recommend marijuana. Since it is still technically against federal laws, some doctors are concerned by language that suggests they will "order'' marijuana instead of "recommending.''

All of these problems are unnecessary and easily

solvable. Brandes is planning to introduce legislation in the coming week that would eliminate Bradley's proposal to limit the number of growers. Brandes also suggests there is no need for growers to control the product from inception to delivery, and proposes creating separate licenses for growers, processors, retailers and transportation companies.

"I hope that we can have reasonable discussions about this,'' Brandes said. "Using the (Charlotte's Web) regulatory system designed for 1,000 sick children when you're now looking at potentially 250,000 patients is crazy. That mindset is absolutely insane.''

What's exasperating is that lawmakers should know better. They bungled the rollout of Charlotte's Web, and children had to wait an unconscionable amount of time before it became available.

And though the Legislature had zero interest in legalizing marijuana on its own, lawmakers had to know this day was on the horizon based on polls and what was happening elsewhere in the country.

"They have this attitude of, 'We have to take a conservative approach because we don't know what's going to happen.' That's nonsense,'' Pollara said. "We know what's going to happen. We know how it's supposed to work. We have two dozen other states that have already shown us.''

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this column.

Comments
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Updated: 9 hours ago
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17
Know your candidates: Florida State House | District 58

Know your candidates: Florida State House | District 58

A hard-fought Republican primary ended with the nomination of Lawrence McClure in October during a whirlwind special election cycle to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who is stepping down for health reasons. The GOP winner faces face three less wel...
Updated: 12 hours ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Published: 12/14/17
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Published: 12/14/17
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Published: 12/14/17