Author Jerry Iannelli

den_011217_veritas_grow_slentz008Scott Lentz

There are 21 million people in Florida, millions of whom will eventually qualify for the medical-grade marijuana that voters approved in November. Very soon, a hell of a lot of weed will be legally sold in the Sunshine State. And so far, lawmakers have given exactly seven companies the right to grow and sell all of that pot.

While Tallahassee might yet hand out a few more licenses by the end of the session, the seven-member pot cartel is already cashing in big-time on its advantage. Yesterday Canadian firm Aphria paid $25 million to buy out Chestnut Hill Tree Farm, an Alachua nursery with one of those licenses. And last year, Massachusetts-based Palliatech bought a minority stake in Miami’s only legal pot grower, Costa Nursery Farms.

As millions of dollars flow into those lucky license-holders, critics say the state is letting a de facto monopoly rake in major cash at the expense of the patients who need that medical pot.

medical-marijuana-florida-amendment-weedShutterstock.com

Florida’s mostly Republican legislators can barely pass basic laws like tax cuts or budget plans without tripping over themselves or spiraling into intra-party screaming matches. They’re so bad at writing their own laws that, as the Miami Herald astutely pointed out last week, gigantic companies like Florida Power & Light have to write laws for them. The current Legislature is a Stygian pit of bad ideas.

So, naturally, Florida voters in 2016 chose to give all of those people drugs.

Last November, Sunshine State residents voted to legalize medical marijuana. This is a good development for folks with debilitating diseases such as cancer, posttraumatic stress disorder, or Alzheimer’s. But it’s not exactly the best-case scenario for many of Florida’s reactionary, conservative lawmakers, who are extremely good at tearing welfare programs apart and not quite as great at writing large, sweeping bills that help people.

Unfortunately, Amendment 2 — the one that legalized medicinal weed last year — gave Florida lawmakers tons of leeway to set their own rules and procedures for the medical-cannabis rollout.

strainsScott Lentz

In November, more than seven in ten Floridians at the polls checked yes on Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Considering Floridians would probably split 50-50 if asked whether they’d like a free delicious cupcake, that’s an amazing result.

So state legislators shouldn’t be shocked that a solid majority of the state is pretty upset with them today. Four months after that overwhelming vote, Tallahassee looks far away from passing the rules that will let dispensaries open up shop around the state. In fact, the first draft of those rules would make it more difficult than ever to get medical pot.

That’s not at all what voters asked for at the ballot box, and a new poll shows they’re less than pleased with how Tally is handling medical marijuana.

the_white_strainHerbert Fuego

Florida’s United for Care campaign spent two full election cycles — 2014 and 2016 — drafting, fighting, and pushing Floridians to legalize medicinal cannabis for demonstrably sick people. Last year, 72 percent of Floridians voted to amend the state constitution to legalize medical weed for people with diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Now it’s up to the Florida Legislature to adopt medical marijuana rules.

Yesterday, Fort Myers Rep. Ray Rodrigues finally unveiled the first medical weed regulations — and they would ban people from smoking marijuana or using edibles. Patients would also be prohibited from vaporizing weed if they aren’t terminally ill.

high-art-boothPhoto Courtesy of High Art

Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the nation’s biggest art fairs, is upon us, which means all sorts of cool, interesting, weird, shocking, and downright breathtaking art will soon be splashed across town for all the world to see. If you can imagine it, it’s probably represented somewhere during Miami Art Week. And one booth at the art fair Spectrum Miami aims to set your imagination ablaze — with weed.

field-of-pot-nate-nicholsNate Nichols

If the latest crop of polls is correct, medical marijuana will be legally available to sick people in Florida tomorrow. As of late October, close to 80 percent of Floridians supported Amendment 2, which would legalize weed statewide for medical purposes, such as helping cancer or Alzheimer’s patients. Sixty percent of the electorate needs to approve the measure for it to pass.

But even assuming it passes, many Florida residents might need to travel pretty far to get their hands on medicinal cannabis. That’s because multiple cities are already gearing up to pass six-month “moratoriums” on medical marijuana — including Miami Beach.

surterra-therapeuticsSurterra Therapeutics

With the looming November 2 vote on Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana in Florida for specific diseases and conditions, one thing is clear: Weed is a polarizing topic. As New Times reported in August, according to one of the most respected marijuana-usage surveys in America, roughly half the residents in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties think smoking weed once a month is “harmful” and should be avoided. The other half rallied for legalization in our Facebook comments.

Although voters disagree, businesses are preparing for a yes vote on Amendment 2. Surterra Therapeutics, a hybrid company, works hand-in-hand with longtime Homestead nursery Alpha Foliage. (Disclosure: Reporter Stacey Russell is related to Surterra’s director of public relations.) Together with Alpha, Surterra cultivates, extracts, packages, markets, and dispenses medical marijuana. (Surterra cannot distribute medical cannabis without a nursery partner because of Florida law.) It’s one of just two dispensaries authorized by the state. Surterra is based in Georgia, but because of the legalization of medical marijuana in Florida, the company has set up camp in Tampa and Tallahassee. New Times toured the Tallahassee cultivation center.
churchillsPhoto by Alexander Oliva

Police lights flashed outside Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti, Miami this past weekend during the Vote Yes Marijuana Fest, but no one seemed to mind. The officers had been hired to work the event. There were no plans to rough up any of the participants of the festivities, which included a 2:30 a.m. blunt-rolling contest.

“The police understand,” organizer Oski Gonzalez said. “They don’t want to keep hassling people because of some marijuana. They want to be out looking for some real criminals.”

medical-marijuanaKatherine Hitt via Flickr Creative Commons

In May 2014, Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss placed a slightly controversial item on that month’s agenda. He wanted to investigate how the medical marijuana industry might affect agriculture in the county.

At the time, fellow Commissioner Javier Souto wasn’t thrilled.

“This is an item that’s causing a lot of arguments in our society. I think we have enough problems,” Souto said at the time. “It’s premature to jump into things like this.”

He was wrong, though. Just one month later, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure allowing patients with cancer or seizures to use low-THC marijuana. And earlier this year, the law was expanded to give people with terminal illnesses access to high-THC marijuana as well.

Now, with two months left until full-fledged medical marijuana is back on the ballot in Florida, the county has released the results of that study initiated by Moss in 2014. Considering the laws currently on the books, officials believe the total sales generated each year could be as high as $124 million in Miami-Dade.

1 2