As we go into the third week of 2019, progress in the Florida cannabis industry has remained steady. Dispensaries are continuing to gradually roll out new products and expand their locations. But perhaps the biggest news-worthy item of the week came today at 1:30 PM EST, when Ron Desantis finally made his policy announcement on medical marijuana in Florida.
Ron Desantis Cannabis Policy/Smoking Ban Update
You can watch the video here if you’d like to see the full announcement. I’ll summarize the main points and offer my interpretation of everything that was said.
This moment has been eagerly anticipated basically ever since Desantis won the election. He stated during his campaign that he was against recreational marijuana in Florida (he reaffirmed this today), stating that the main reason for his views was he didn’t think children and teenagers should have access to it. But the newly elected governor gave subtle hints that he thinks the medical marijuana program as currently implemented, is heavily flawed and needs to be rewritten to take a patient-focused approach. Finally, he addressed that in his policy announcement today, and we got our first clear answers from Desantis himself.
To summarize the highlights of the video:
- Matt Gaetz opened up the conference, stating that as one of the main lawmakers that implemented the amendment in 2017, he too believes that the current system is flawed after hearing court cases and seeing the results of the law he helped create.
- John Morgan was next to speak; he reaffirmed that he has been “encouraged” ever since Ron Desantis took office and began identifying the flaws in the program.
- Lieutenant Governor Jeannette Núñez briefly spoke next, echoing Morgan’s sentiments of encouragement and the “bold new direction” of the Desantis Administration.
- Desantis was the fourth and final speaker, and begins by reaffirming that the current law is not “up to snuff” with what he feels the voters of Florida intended when they voted 71% in favor of Amendment 2 in the 2016 elections.
- The governor stated his belief that the current Florida cannabis industry is basically a cartel, and that he prefers horizontal integration over vertical integration. He said the current system is simply not founded on good economic principles.
- Ron Desantis repeatedly states that he wants patients to stop suffering, stating “whether [patients] have to smoke it or not, who am I to judge that? I want people to be able to have their suffering relieved.”
- The state legislature will have 2 months (until mid-March) to essentially “fix” the current Florida medical marijuana law. As a former congressman, Desantis states that he wants to give the legislature a chance to right the law. He assures us that if they do not do this for any reason, then he will drop the lawsuit against smoking.
- Governor Desantis seems to have mixed feelings about patients growing their own cannabis at home. I felt that his general “vibe” was in opposition of the idea, but this is purely speculation.
- Matt Gaetz claims that the entire reason for the vertical integration and licensing limits in the first place was simply to ensure that it would get the votes. Now that the people of Florida are clearly not happy with the current law, Gaetz says it is time to take a patient-centric approach rather than one that focuses on political maneuvering.
From everything I watched in Governor Desantis’ speech, I truly feel that we will be able to smoke our cannabis by the beginning of the summer at the latest. Politics aside, Desantis really seems like he is going to do what he says he will do, if nothing else to ensure his approval and longevity as Governor of Florida. I also feel that vertical integration will come to an end around the same time – what system ultimately replaces it is up for speculation and debate. I do not think that Desantis will allow home growing, at least not this year. It won’t make sense to him from an economic perspective. Hopefully as we get closer to 2020, this will change.
We will see what happens in mid-March. However, we shouldn’t become complacent in the next 60 days. Take this time to make your voice louder than ever – reach out to your elected officials. You can tweet at them. Email them. Mail them letters. Call them. Whatever it takes, let them know how much you need to smoke your cannabis, or how the current market is making it hard for you to access and/or afford your medicine. Let them know why we need to move toward letting patients grow their own cannabis at home. Now is when we need to close in and make sure we help make this happen as the people and voters of Florida.
Trulieve releases Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) Product
Trulieve released an announcement of a new product this week – their version of Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), a full-spectrum cannabis extract intended only for oral or topical use. RSO offers a new product for patients to use to treat their ailments. Syringes are $50 and are anywhere from 50% to 80% THC. The first batches were cut with MCT oil, though Trulieve informed us that they have addressed this issue and future batches will not be cut with it. You can order Trulieve’s RSO here -currently only available in a hybrid strain (Gorilla Grapes).
Dispensaries are neglecting the Panhandle
I know, I know – the population density in the larger metropolitan areas of central and southern Florida accounts for at least part of why this situation exists – on an economic basis. But as Gaetz and Desantis stated in the video, it’s time to take a patient-centric approach. When South Florida patients are seeing new dispensaries open every other week and have access to such a wider variety of products, it isn’t fair to the patients in the Panhandle when absolutely none of those locations up here within the entire year of 2018. I’m one of those patients (Tallahassee), and experienced this problem firsthand this week. GrowHealthy only delivers to our area biweekly, so it’s already difficult to come by their products. However, when I placed my delivery order (they deliver this Saturday), I was called back and told they had already reached the “delivery maximum”, and it would be February 2 before I could have a delivery. This was a minor inconvenience for someone like myself, as I was mainly wanting to try another dispensary for my own purposes and to provide some variety in my reviews, but it could have been a much worse situation for a patient with terminal illness or a more severe debilitating condition.
While South Florida has access to dispensaries from MUV, GrowHealthy, Liberty Health Sciences, Vidacann, Trulieve, Surterra, Knox, and Curaleaf, some areas in the Panhandle only have access to a fraction of that. Take areas like Pensacola for example, who only have Trulieve and Surterra within 50 miles of them (the next closest dispensary is Knox in Fort Walton Beach). It simply isn’t fair that those patients don’t have the same diversity of medical products available to them, and it’s past time for Florida cannabis companies to address that. Please, quit neglecting the Panhandle.
I choose to remain positive about Ron Desantis’ announcement today. I believe that he is taking approach that allows the state legislature to dignify themselves and fix the broken system, rather than taking the authoritarian approach and “taking the rug from underneath them”, so to speak. By the beginning of April, I full expect to see the beginnings of a totally different (and much better) cannabis industry in the state of Florida. Products are going to become more numerous, prices are going to go down, more companies are going to come into existence, more dispensaries will open, and more patients will use cannabis to relieve their ailments and achieve a much higher quality of life. It’s going to take more time, but we are already seeing the beginning ripples of progress, and they will grow in frequency and intensity in the coming weeks. As patients and advocates, we need to remain vigilant and active and see this through to completion. Our state’s patients deserve nothing less.
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