While Florida’s legislators present themselves as though they are acting with compassion to help children who suffer intractable epilepsy, many of the power player’s real objective is to capture market share for their crony friends of the huge marijuana business that is rapidly approaching Florida. A close reading of SB 1030, ironically tilted the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” a/k/a the “Charlotte’s Web Bill” reveals it sets the foundation to hand over Florida’s burgeoning marijuana industry to a select few friends of the establishment class. Charlotte’s Web creates an anti-competitive platform under the guise of compassionate legislation and the Governor has stated his intent to sign it into law.
The proposed law requires that the cultivation, processing, and dispensing of the low level-CBD end-product shall solely be conducted by a single entity referred to as a “dispensing organization.” Under the proposed law there can be no more than five dispensing organizations, statewide. I predict there will be only one. This anti-competitive business model is referred to as “vertical integration.” Ironically, vertical integration is exactly what the Republican majority argued against when insisting that the craft brewery industry must use a three-tier level of distribution contending that would preserve competitive markets. This is what is known as hypocrisy.
It gets worse. Not only must a single entity be the sole grower, processor, manufacturer and distributor of the Charlotte’s Web strain of cannabis from the time it is planted in the soil until placed under the patient’s tongue as an oil, but in order to qualify as a dispensing organization the business must have been “a registered nursery in this state for at least 30 continuous years.” (See lines 185-194 from the proposed legislation inserted below.) I suggest this anti-competitive platform was accomplished purposefully to position a few crony capitalists (also known as democratic capitalists) to be handed the lion’s share of Florida’s marijuana business that will plant itself in our state following the passage of Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution in November 2014. I further suggest, as I have been stating in my campaign appearances around the state, this was the Republican establishment’s endgame plan all along, despite political propaganda to the contrary. A thirty-year requirement to qualify for market access is unprecedented in any industry I am aware of and certainly has no rational basis to serve as a prerequisite to grow “weed.” Shame on those in the House who introduced and supported this 11th hour amendment. A new industry that could create prosperity for so many Floridian entrepreneurs is being funneled to a select few.
My heart goes out to the families and patients who will be denied compassionate use because of this highly restrictive Charlotte’s Web bill, which only allows for use as an oil droplet for patients who demonstrate symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms. Aside from the small population this oil will help, a million Floridians will be denied the healing benefits of other derivatives of the cannabis plant which could have been made available by passage of the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act (SB 962). When I wrote the original Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act in 2012, I purposefully included safeguards against anti-competition like we now see in 2014. The Republican leadership refused to advance the Cathy Jordan Act again this year. Yet they embraced this commercial market grab presently known as CS/CS/SB 1030, Enrolled.
This is the type of politicking and cronyism that inspired me to run for Florida Attorney General. I want to be in a position to protect the interests of ALL Floridians when the legislature has to meet its mandate to create law following the passage of Amendment 2 in November. I do not trust any of the ‘establishment candidates’ to protect the will of the voters where such a huge and profitable market is involved. On behalf of the parents who came to Tallahassee to plead for access to that which is available in 21 other states and D.C., I’m calling “foul” on our FL legislators.
In the 11th hour the following was added to the bill by 7th-generation Floridian, Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres:
185 . . . An applicant for approval as a
186 dispensing organization must be able to demonstrate:
187 1. The technical and technological ability to cultivate and
188 produce low-THC cannabis. The applicant must possess a valid
189 certificate of registration issued by the Department of
190 Agriculture and Consumer Services pursuant to s. 581.131 that is
191 issued for the cultivation of more than 400,000 plants, be
192 operated by a nurseryman as defined in s. 581.011, and have been
193 operated as a registered nursery in this state for at least 30
194 continuous years.
Wohlsifer, an attorney in Tallahassee, is now running for the office held by Attorney General Pam Bondi. Wohlsifer has announced that he will pay the qualifying fee and is certain to be on the November ballot.
Matt Wright is a writer and political activist living in south Florida. He has a BS in communications and is currently working for the Bill Wohlsifer for Attorney General campaign. To hear more from Matt you can follow him on Twitter at @mrwright79 or Like him on Facebook.