The growing tensions between prospective producers of medical marijuana and state regulators have now become political fodder as former Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday blasted Gov. Rick Scott's administration for a plan to use a lottery to select the companies that will develop legalized pot in Florida.
Speaking to reporters in Miami on Friday, Crist said he believes the system should be based on merit, similar to one endorsed by nurseries, investors and families of people suffering from the ailments the low-THC marijuana will be used to treat.
"The best way to award any contract is to have a good, open, honest, competitive process," Crist said when asked about the issue Friday, according to the News Service of Florida.
"I don't know that a lottery is the right way to go, frankly. It seems to me that people ought to submit their applications. They ought to be reviewed, thoroughly reviewed in a comprehensive fashion, and those that are determined to be the best are the ones that should get the contracts."
Crist's comments came a day after the Department of Health, an agency of the governor, released its proposed rule for the development and cultivation of the low-THC marijuana.
The issue has the potential to become a legal fight, or discourage many companies from participating, and Crist is clearly prepared to use this as another wedge issue against the governor.
Despite appeals from families and prospective companies that the agency use a merit-based system to select who will obtain the licenses, the agency — fearing litigation — continues to adhere to a lottery system. Under the rule, the companies will comply with certain criteria and from that list a computer-generated "double random lottery-type system" will decide which companies will be granted the license in each of five regions of the state.
Crist is also a supporter of Amendment 2, the proposal on the November ballot to allow for the legalization of a broader array of marijuana for a specific list of ailments. He has been heavily backed by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who is the prime supporter of the amendment and is Crist's boss at Morgan & Morgan.
Scott has not commented on the marijuana rule but has indicated that he personally opposes the amendment.
ACLU criticizes Bush
Count the ACLU of Florida as decidedly unimpressed with Jeb Bush's opposition to the medical marijuana amendment.
Bush last week joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to denounce the proposed amendment on the November ballot that will allow patients with a list of debilitating conditions to get a doctor's permission to treat the condition with marijuana.
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, noted how Bush intervened to prevent the family of Terri Schiavo, who was severely brain damaged, from removing her feeding tube that had kept her alive for 15 years. The ACLU represented Schiavo's husband, Michael.
"Once again, Jeb Bush is trying to impose his views on medical treatment on Florida patients. Amendment 2 is about allowing people suffering from debilitating conditions to access treatment plans that include using marijuana as a medicine, with the supervision of a doctor, to alleviate their pain and suffering. …"
"Jeb Bush was wrong about limiting patients' rights then and he is wrong now,'' Simon said. "You would think that after his shameful performance in the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Jeb Bush would be too embarrassed to offer any advice on the rights and well-being of patients. These are medical decisions to be made by doctors about what is best for their patients; it is not a role for politicians."
Check out Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Lattimer today on Political Connections at Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The premier race
It's Florida's premier congressional race, and one of the most watched in the country: incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, vs. Democrat Gwen Graham.
The TV ads were flying last week, with one from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which attacks Southerland, keeping up a line that the congressman, first elected in 2010, has lost touch with his North Florida roots.
"It only takes two hours to fly from Bay County to Washington," a narrator says, "but it's plenty of time for congressman Steve Southerland to forget who he works for."
Southerland released his first ad, saying he "voted to cut trillions in Washington spending and to repeal Obamacare." And the outside group Ocean Champions released an ad criticizing Southerland on fishery issues.
Times Washington bureau chief Alex Leary contributed to this report.