With all of the tension between the House and Senate, it’s unlikely that there’s a coordinated effort between the chambers regarding the treatment of Florida pot czar Christian Bax.
But it seems there’s a good cop, bad cop thing going on.
After a major spanking by a Senate committee earlier this year, the House Health Quality Subcommittee gave Bax the kid-glove treatment this morning.
And a key member of the panel, Rep. Ralph Massullo even acknowledged it.
“I know you got beat up in the Senate but we try to do things more in the House with martial arts, where the effect is the same but we use less force,” Massullo, a Lecanto Republican who is a doctor, said.
Senators were furious with Bax over delays in issuing new medical marijuana licenses, which Bax, the director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, blamed on pending legal challenges. The Senate Health Quality Committee
“I’m not buying that just because there’s litigation out there you can’t fulfill your statutory duty to issue these additional licenses,” Senate Health Quality Committee Chairwoman Dana Young, a lawyer, scolded Bax during an appearance before her panel last month.
Senate committees have also been frustrated about delays patients are facing in getting their ID cards from Bax’s shop. Patients have to be cleared by Bax’s office before they can obtain the medical marijuana treatment.
The House committee this morning spent a good chunk of time querying Bax about the ID cards, but much more gently than his treatment by its Senate counterpart.
Bax blamed delays in the issuing the ID cards on a couple of things, mostly having to do with paper.
The company that processes electronic payments for the state won’t handle the $75 charge for the ID cards, so patients are forced to pay by check, which takes longer, Bax said.
And there’s a bid war going on regarding the outsourcing of the ID cards. A losing bidder is protesting the Department of Health’s selection of a vendor to process and produce the ID cards. That probably won’t be resolved until February, according to health officials.
Of the 52,000 patients in the medical marijuana registry, about 31,000 have received ID cards. Another 17,000 haven’t applied for one, after being entered into the registry by their doctor, Bax said.
About 4,500 patients are “moving through that process” of applying for a card, he said, eschewing the word “backlog” when asked about it.
Bax said he’s hired 19 new employees and 18 temp workers, and all but three of them are devoted to handling the cards.
“Any time a person has to lay hands on a piece of paper, scan it, sort it, organize it…Anytime that happens, it takes time and resources to do,” he said. “So patients watching at home, please apply on line.”