Savvy businessmen and women are rushing to the scene of the crime? In this case, the crime may be committed by the State of Florida, which intends to legalize a substance that is still technically illegal according to federal law. The substance at issue is marijuana, and entrepreneurs are rushing in to capitalize on a cash crop that has proven to be quite lucrative on the black market and in some legal state markets, most notably, Colorado. However, there are many unanswered questions as to how state officials are going to regulate such a fledgeling industry that, thus far, has been a cash business that banks don’t even want to finance. The questions that citizens are asking revolve around health, crime, and the impact on the economy. Will the marijuana cash crop biz be a successful, tightly regulated enterprise, or will it fail?
John Morgan, an Orlando-based, superstar-attorney, advocate for the sick, and pot lobbyist, campaigned for months in order for his petition to be validated and the marijuana vote to be placed on the November ballot. He won. Floridians will be voting for the legal, medicinal use of marijuana in November, and largely due to his campaign, most Floridians know about marijuana being on the ballot, and about 60 percent of Floridians support the initiative. With these statistics, the State of Florida has given in and crafted rules pertaining to its legalization. In my opinion the rules that have been set so far are not draconian, but fair. Unlike many states where medicinal marijuana inevitably winds up in the hands of the not-so-sick, Florida has stringent new standards on who may purchase medicinal pot, who may prescribe medicinal pot, and where medicinal pot may be grown. To start, the use of medicinal marijuana will be limited to those people with very serious diseases. A basic back ache, sore foot, or slight depression will not suffice. However, someone with Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, or Cancer will be a likely candidate. After proving that one is sick enough to be prescribed medicinal marijuana, they must next obtain a medical marijuana card which will be issued by the state. Lastly, a user will have to purchase his or her marijuana from a state-regulated dispensary. Here is where the medical marijuana issue gets a little sticky.
I am obviously happy that Florida has finally grown to realize and accept that marijuana is a viable drug, not just an illegal drug with high abuse potential. There are many questions I have which must be answered or this bill may prove to be a complete failure. I personally know people who are sick with a few of the debilitating diseases mentioned above. I don’t know whether they would want to smoke pot to relieve their symptoms, but that is neither here nor there. My questions revolve around the people with rare diseases. Diseases that may effect, say, 1 in a million people. How about someone who does not have a categorically “debilitating” illness, but has a severe form of a non-debilitating illness, of which the pain can potentially be seriously diminished through the use of medicinal marijuana. Where will Florida draw the line in the sand? Will the exclusiveness according to “disease category” be fair, or would a laissez fare approach, similar to the California model, be more appropriate.
My next question revolves around supply and demand. It is no secret that Florida has one of the highest populations of senior citizens in the country. Florida is also the fastest growing state in the country, soon to surpass New York in total population. It is a perfect storm. Baby boomers are becoming or have already become senior citizens and they are moving to Florida. Unfortunately, with age comes sickness. Will Florida be able to keep up with the demand for marijuana if it is in fact legalized? The State Department of Health has been directed by the State of Florida to be the regulating body for the medical marijuana industry, but are they making the rules a little to tough in regards to who may sell and who may not sell medicinal pot? Lets look at the facts. Medical marijuana growers have to meet these specific criteria before they are even considered being given access to a marijuana grower’s permit: Growers must have been open in a similar “plant growing capacity” for the last 30 years, which almost certainly crosses out a large percentage of the possible entrepreneurs who will be granted access to the permits. With these numbers it is evident that the fewer the growers there are, the fewer the amount of plants there will be, which will equate with less people having access. I’m not going to hold my breath.
In all, 21 states have given the go-ahead in regards to the medical marijuana question. The opponents of these bills have voiced their concerns, and their concerns are very legitimate. I am personally in favor medical marijuana being legalized; however, I respect the views of those whom are against it. To play devil’s advocate I will briefly mention a few of these concerns. Opponents are worried that the Florida industry will follow in the foot steps of the California medical pot industry. If this happens I may switch my view. Law makers in California neglected to do what Florida is doing right now, which is regulate it on a state level, and what ensued turned out to be a disaster for the medical marijuana cause. The legislators in California ultimately left it up to the local municipalities to enact medicinal marijuana restrictions. The shops ended up regulating themselves; and in essence, they did what they wanted to. The result was everyone, even the non-sick, ended up being “medical marijuana” customers. This prevented the people who were actually sick from receiving their medicine. Florida is in the process of implementing its own rules on a state level, but they cannot let themselves get lazy or delegate part of the regulation and enforcement to counties or municipalities. It simply will not work.
In the end, everyone will be watching Florida. I am excited to see what happens. Florida has a lot of brilliant minds, and the capacity to make this initiative possible; however, it’s success depends on the written law and whether or not bureaucratic confusion will cloud over the integrity of the hopefully soon-to-be fledgling medicinal marijuana market.