DeSantis proposing further changes to Florida's medical marijuana system

Courtesy: Office of Governor Ron DeSantis
Courtesy: Office of Governor Ron DeSantis(WCTV)
Published: Jan. 18, 2019 at 4:21 PM EST
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

January 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- In addition to asking state lawmakers to make smokeable cannabis available to patients, Governor Ron DeSantis also wants to shake up the entire distribution system.

The governor likens the current seed-to-sale structure to a drug cartel.

DeSantis didn’t mince words when asked if agreed with the way Florida’s Medical Marijuana Industry was operating Thursday afternoon.

“They created a cartel essentially,” said DeSantis. "I don't know that the amendment necessarily prohibits that, but that is not good policy.”

Under the current policy, 14 companies have a virtual monopoly controlling everything from seed to sale.

Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association says that makes it nearly impossible for smaller operations to acquire licenses.

“So there has been some concern and question about, do we need to be vertically integrated, you've got to do the whole thing,” said Sharkey. “Or can we allow people to do pieces of this they're very good at?”

DeSantis wants to open up the market by allowing companies to provide specific services, like growing, transporting or dispensing.

We reached out to representatives from medical marijuana provider Trulieve, but were told the company wasn’t ready to comment on DeSantis’ proposed changes.

Current licensees stand to lose the most if the market is opened up.

The licenses they hold are worth upwards of $50 million, even if they haven’t sold a single product yet.

Florida’s requirement for growers to follow a seed-to-sale model was successfully challenged in court last year.

The state appealed, blocking the ruling, but DeSantis has suggested he could drop the appeal, if the Legislature doesn’t cooperate.

“Policymakers, they want industry to survive, but you know there's plenty of room here for other qualified people to get in and participate in this growing medical marijuana market,” said Sharkey.

Two bills have already been filed for the 2019 session.

One allows smoking, the other would require dispensaries be independently owned instead of controlled by the growers.