Proposal Would Open Medical Pot Market

Feb 25, 2019

A longtime proponent of medical marijuana filed a measure Friday that would eliminate Florida’s “vertical integration” system requiring state-licensed operators to grow, process and dispense cannabis and related products. 

The proposal, filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow companies to perform one or more of the activities – growing, processing, dispensing or transporting – involved in the medical-marijuana business. The plan (SB 1322) would also do away with caps on the number of medical-marijuana licenses.

Brandes has been a fierce critic of the state’s highly restricted medical-marijuana system, in which sought-after licenses have sold for as much as $80 million.

Some companies have “flipped” licenses without selling marijuana products to patients, a practice Brandes said his proposal would end.

“I believe the structure is broken,” he told The News Service of Florida on Friday. Brandes filed the proposed medical-marijuana overhaul for consideration during the legislative session that begins March 5.

Brandes is also the sponsor of a separate measure that would do away with the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are closing in on an agreement to address the issue, in time for a March 15 deadline set by DeSantis to eliminate the smoking ban. If they don’t act, the Republican governor threatened to drop the state’s appeal of a court ruling that said the ban violates a voter-approved constitutional amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana.