By this time next year, we believe Florida's medical marijuana market finally will be at a point that dovetails with the intent of voters in passing Florida Amendment 2, the constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved to legalize medical marijuana.
Under current state law, medical marijuana patients cannot legally smoke cannabis — nor can they buy (or grow) the plant, which is nicknamed "weed" for a reason. Perhaps sensing the hypocrisy of such a law and, with court rulings piling up against the state, wasting financial resources that could be better used elsewhere, Gov. Ron DeSantis challenged lawmakers to make a change and let patients and their doctors decide what is right for them.
The Florida House should continue the momentum and take up the already-passed Senate measure or conform their bill to the Senate's so the legislation can go straight to DeSantis.
Doing so would be a victory for the ill, who have sought treatments beyond the standard pharmaceutical fare, but also an example of lawmakers' responding to the needs and requests of voters.
So bravo, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Cabinet, as well as the House and Senate, for proving to us that government can work as the founders intended — by the people and for the people. (No, it's not just a line in an ad; it's the way government was supposed to work.) If we could bottle up some of that magic, we'd deploy it on to Washington, but that's an editorial for another day.
There still is work to be done to get Florida's cannabis industry on par with other states'. As with any drug — or really any commodity — a free-market approach is the best place to start in a capitalist society, and we don't want the medical cannabis industry to be restrained the way the pharmaceutical industry has been, with its high prices and vigorous standards that serve as a double-edged sword. Quality control is preserved, yes, but when you have citizens and lawmakers talking about importing drugs from Canada to bypass the high cost of prescriptions in the United States, you know that's one operation you don't want to copy.
With their votes on this measure, the Florida Legislature has struck the proper balance in treating cannabis like the experimental treatment it is without resorting to the puritanical nonsense that has defined the nation's drug laws since the Nixon administration.
The Legislature should revisit this issue next session to ensure the new laws are working as intended and that patients have ample supply and responsible vendors are profitably incentivized to better serve the needs of their customers, while still competing on service to gain market share as they gain customers' favor.
Although the session still is in full swing, passage of the legislation likely will snuff out attempts by some lawmakers (mostly South Florida Democrats) who wanted to expand the legislation to include legalizing recreational marijuana.
That is something that likely will need to be explored in coming sessions — especially as millennials pivot to that issue and sensible lawmakers try to find a way to pull them from their addiction to the sound of socialism. But first things first.
Let's get Florida's medical cannabis market out of its infancy before we explore expansion of that market to include all adults over 21. The time for that discussion will come, but as most states have seen, the same businesses that supply the recreational market are responsible for the medical supply, which should be given preferential treatment, not only on things like taxes and zoning, but also when it comes to who would be served first in case of a market shortage. (There will come a day when a hurricane leaves someone un-high and dry, and we would want the ill to be served before the neighborhood stoner.)
Until that day, let's continue to improve and redefine the medical marijuana market. Existing and potential customers could benefit from an inexpensive searchable state database that looks through the entire medical supply and matches customers with strains or intake methods of cannabis that can best provide them symptomatic relief.
REPRINTED FROM THE PANAMA CITY NEWS HERALD