Gov. Scott Signs Expansion of Medical Marijuana Bill in Florida

This past Friday, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill which would expand Florida’s narrow medical marijuana law.  The bill, which was already approved by the Senate and House of Representatives, will now become a law.

The new law increases the number of people who would qualify for medical marijuana to include those persons suffering from a terminal illness.  Previously, the law was limited to patients suffering from cancer and seizure disorders.  The law also expands the types of cannabis available to qualifying patients to include strains that are high in THC as well as those that are high in CBD.

Finally, the new law seeks to streamline the process of setting up dispensing organizations which would provide medical cannabis to patients.  The process established by the old law was heavily criticized and never reached full implementation due to legal challenges and bureaucratic red tape.  The new law seeks to create a clearer path to a functioning dispensary system and allows for an increase in the number of dispensing organizations as the number of patients increases.

While the new law is not as broad as the ballot initiative which will appear on the November 2016 election ballot, it is still another small step in the right direction.  It is evidence that lawmakers are increasingly viewing medical cannabis as a legitimate form of treatment and that they are putting compassion for patients above the strict “drug war” mentality.

The full text of the new law can be read by clicking here.


US Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Colorado Recreational Pot Legalization

The US Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by the State’s of Nebraska and Oklahoma which sought to challenge Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis.  That suit asserted that Colorado’s neighboring states were being harmed by legal pot which was being purchased in Colorado and brought across the border into those states.  By declining the case, the Supreme Court essentially allowed the lower court’s dismissal of the suit stand.


Bill Expanding Medical Cannabis And Adding Dispensing Organizations Heads to Florida Governor

The Florida Senate has approved a House Bill (HB 307) which would expand on Florida’s Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.  That act was initially passed last year, but due to legal challenges and bureaucratic red tape, it’s implementation has been delayed.

The new bill would expand the existing law by incorporating cannabis use under Florida’s Right To Try Act (§499.0295), which permits terminally ill patients the ability to use medicinal cannabis.  Cannabis available under the Right to Try Act is not limited to low THC, high CBD strains that were permitted under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.

One of the other notable changes to the law was that it provides for an expansion of the number of dispensing organization.  The current law only allows for five dispensing organizations to provide cannabis for the entire state.  The new law proposes to increase that number to eight organizations after the number of qualified patients exceeds 250,000.

The proposed law also states that, if that expansion takes place, one of the three new dispensing organizations should be a black-owned.  This addition to the law is in response to criticism that the old law’s strict criteria for awarding licenses had the effect of excluding black farmers.

The bill now heads to Governor Rick Scott for approval or rejection.

Fort Lauderdale “Just Says No” to Broward County’s Pot Decriminalization … For Now.

In 2015, citizens of South Florida were given a much needed dose of hope when Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties all voted to make the possession of small quantities of cannabis a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense.  The new laws would require violators to simply pay a small fine and gave them a chance to avoid getting slapped with a criminal record over a little weed.

The implementation of those laws has hit a few snags, however, and they have yet to fully go into effect in Broward and Palm Beach.  Another roadblock was encountered earlier this month when the City of Fort Lauderdale City Commission formally elected not to participate in the County’s civil citation program.

The City Prosecutor for Fort Lauderdale issued a memorandum outlining several reasons why she felt that the City should remove itself from the County’s decriminalization efforts.  Those reasons included legal issues with conflicting City code provisions, concerns about double jeopardy and speedy trial problems, and the fact that the City Prosecutor has its own competing diversion program which allows first offenders to have their charges dismissed in some instances.  The City Prosecutor’s memo can be read by clicking here.

On February 16, 2016, the City Commission agreed with the City Prosecutor and voted unanimously to opt out of the County’s civil citation program.  So, if you are in Fort Lauderdale, don’t count on simply paying a $100 fine if you get caught with a joint.

But, the news isn’t all bad.  The City Commission also included a directive in its resolution telling the City Manager to develop a civil citation program of its own for Fort Lauderdale.  It is still unclear when the City Manager will do that, or what the the details of that program will be, but it at least holds open the possibility that Fort Lauderdale will re-join the trend towards decriminalization in the future.

The full text of the City resolution can be read by clicking here.

Medical Marijuana is Officially on the 2016 Ballot in Florida!!


Earlier today, United for Care announced that over 683,149 signatures had been collected allowing the medical marijuana initiative to be placed November, 2016 election ballot in Florida.

The initiative will be labeled as “Amendment 2” and will allow voters a second chance to approve the medical use of cannabis after a similar measure fell just short of passing in 2014.

Now its time to get to work and encourage everyone you know to turn out and vote for a much needed change to our archaic drug laws.

Broward County Moves Forward With Decriminalization

Last November, the Broward County Commission passed a measure that would give police officers the discretion to treat possession of small amounts of cannabis as a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense.  This measure would allow for the payment of a small civil  fine in lieu of criminal prosecution and could save offenders from getting a criminal record.

The county has now begun to move forward with implementing the new law, and have set aside $174,859 for the measure, including money to hire a person to coordinate the program.

While the new measure isn’t perfect, it marks a much needed step towards ending the needless and wasteful prosecution of cannabis users.

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.