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Unlimited Growers: New Bill Could Revamp Florida’s Medical Marijuana System

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
A bill filed today would completely revamp Florida's medical marijuana system. File photo of medical marijuana from Knox Nursery in Winter Garden.

A new bill filed Wednesday has the potential to completely revamp Florida’s medical marijuana system – and remove caps on the number of growers.

St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes filed the bill to implement Amendment 2, the medical marijuana amendment approved overwhelmingly by voters last November.

The bill, which you can read here, would throw out Florida’s current medical marijuana program. Florida’s existing medical marijuana program is vertically integrated: nurseries grow, process, sell and deliver medical cannabis. Florida has two programs for medical marijuana: A low-THC marijuana program for conditions like epilepsy, and full-strength marijuana for the terminally ill.

There are currently just seven license holders in Florida, which Brandes calls a “state sanctioned cartel” that limits competition and results in higher prices.

“That is by far what we’re seeing,” Brandes said in an interview with WMFE. “We’re seeing these families today hiring lobbyists in Tallahassee to prevent the market from growing.”

The bill, SB 614, would also eliminate the cap on the number of growers.

“No, there’s no cap on the number of growers,” Brandes said. “Ultimately, there really shouldn’t be. The grower market should be whatever the economy and whatever the marketplace demands.”

Instead, there would now be four types of licenses: one to grow marijuana, one to process marijuana, one to transport marijuana, and one for retail centers. Each county could have one retail center per 25,000, or nearly 800 statewide. But local governments would also be allowed to outright ban them.

There are two competing bills to enact Amendment 2. Senator Rob Bradley’s bill keeps much of the current structure, but specifically allows marijuana to treat chronic pain. You can see that bill here.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.