Archives for December, 2015

Feds Back Off On Medical Marijuana – Major Step For Patients and Dispensaries

Ever since California’s Prop 215 first allowed legal access to medical marijuana, there has been a lingering friction between State’s that chose to legalize medical cannabis and the Federal Government who insisted that it was still illegal nationwide.  This legal conflict served as a source of tension in the lives of patients and marijuana professionals alike.  There have been Federal raids in medical States and the issue even went to the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Gonzalez v. Raich.

However, that era appears to be coming to an end.  Congress has passed a spending bill that has a little golden nugget for cannabis activists buried deep within its 1,603 pages.  That bill essentially puts an end to the enforcement of Federal cannabis prohibition in States that recognize medical marijuana.

The Obama administration had adopted a very similar approach, particularly in recent years, so it is not likely that citizens will feel a substantial difference once the new law goes into effect.  However, the nagging fears of many cannabis activists that a less pot-friendly administration could roll back the permissive approach of the Obama administration are seemingly put to rest.

Everyday we are seeing the walls of prohibition as they continue to crumble.  This latest development represents a major brick being removed.

New Legal Challenges Threaten to Delay CBD Dispensaries in Florida

When five nurseries were finally selected to receive the first licenses to legally grow and dispense cannabis in the State of Florida, it looked like we were finally closer to seeing relief for some patients.  However, the licensing process, which has been plagued with delays from its inception, appears to have hit another roadblock.  It is truly a “one step forward, two steps back” situation.

As was anticipated, the applicants who failed to be selected for licenses have headed to court and are now bringing numerous challenges to the licensing process and the selections that were made.  On December 11, 2015, three legal challenges were filed.  Those were followed by ten more which were filed the next business days.  That brings the current number of lawsuits to 13.

The suits make a variety of legal claims, including some that assert that the selection process was corrupted by nepotism because four of the five nurseries that were selected had representatives on the rule-making committee.

The challenges also focus on problems related to the scoring of different applicant’s licenses.  One applicant who applied for licenses in two regions received vastly different scores on each application, despite providing nearly identical information on both.

While it is not entirely clear what impact these suits will have on the progress of the CBD dispensing organizations, it is likely that the process will be delayed.  That could pose an problem for the present license holders as the law requires that dispensing organizations have product ready for distribution within 210 days of receiving their permits.

Palm Beach County Reduces Penalties for Pot … But Don’t Light Up Yet

The Palm Beach County Commission voted 4-1 to approve a measure which would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis.  In doing so, it joins Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which passed similar measures in the past months.

The measure allows for police to issue a civil citation with a $100 fine for the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.  It will allow those who are cited to avoid facing criminal charges.  The fine amount can be increased if the offender fails to pay or is a repeat offender.

However, not everyone is rushing to embrace the new law with open arms.  Palm Beach County Sheriff, Ric Bradshaw, has indicated that his officers will still be treating minor marijuana possession as a 1st degree misdemeanor while his office investigates the new law.  Because the law allows officers the discretion to treat pot possession as a civil or criminal offense, the Sheriff appears to have the authority to take this step .. at least for the time being.

So, we should applaud the Palm Beach County Commission for taking steps to bring common sense to pot possession charges, but a big thumbs down goes to Sheriff Bradshaw for dragging his feet on implementing these much needed changes.  Hopefully, the Sheriff’s “review” of the new law will be completed shortly and the citizens of Palm Beach County will begin to reap the benefits.

 

Florida Supreme Court Paves the Way for Medical Marijuana on the 2016 Ballot

Earlier today, the Florida Supreme Court approved the language of the 2016 ballot initiative which will allow voters another chance to approve the use of medical marijuana.  The Supreme Court must approve the language all such ballot measures to insure that the language is not confusing and only deals with a single subject.

In 2014, when the measure just missed the mark, the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, vigorously opposed the Court’s approval of the language.  But this time around, the State elected not to dispute the language so it was relatively smooth sailing in the Supreme Court.

Now, supporters of the measure must gather the remaining 100,000 signatures necessary for final approval of the ballot initiative.  That task is likely to be achieved without much problem according to the measure’s backers.

Recreational Marijuana Amendment Fails to Make 2016 Ballot In Florida

Several months ago, a group called Regulate Florida organized in an effort to place an amendment on the 2016 ballot which would legalize recreational marijuana in the State of Florida.  This measure would have made Florida the first state to skip medical marijuana and move straight to legal marijuana for non-medical use.

However, the measure faced the daunting requirement that 683,000 signatures be collected and verified before it could be considered for inclusion on the ballot.  This hurdle proved to high (and expensive) for the measure’s backers to satisfy.

Michael Minardi, Karen Goldstein, and the others involved in Regulate Florida deserve our commendation, appreciation and respect for making this effort.  They are tireless advocates for the cause and even though this battle was lost, the war will eventually be won.

And remember, the medical marijuana initiative is still on track for the 2016 ballot, so all is not lost.  Keep up the fight.

All Five Dispensing Organizations Meet Bond Requirement

After being selected in a controversial application process, each of the five entities chosen to receive licenses to grow and distribute “low THC / high CBD” cannabis have posted a $5 million bond as required.  The companies waited until the last possible day to post the bond, but each submitted the bond on time and will proceed to the next stage of the process.

Each of the five dispensing organizations will now have 65 days to submit a request for authorization to begin growing the specific strain of cannabis.  After receiving that authorization, the organizations are required to begin dispensing cannabis within 210 days.