Ray Rodrigues

#Nosmokeisajoke: Florida laughing stock over MMJ smoking ban

Pot exclamation point!.pngLawyer Michael Minardi, the general counsel for Florida NORML unloaded on a Florida House committee yesterday over the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.

Minardi, whose website proclaims he’s “The Gold Standard of the Green Industry,” joined other MMJ smoke proponents to shake the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee into axing the prohibition.

Before hearing from the advocates, committee Chairman Ray Rodrigues made a significant concession by stripping a provision that would have required docs to get approval from a “case review panel” before they could order smokable marijuana for patients.

The House plan now would restrict patients to buying pre-rolled joints with filters from licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The advocates aren’t crazy about that provision, but hey, they can always rip off the filters and stuff the weed into a bong or whatev once they get it home, per Ray Rod.

Minardi told the committee that smoke is the number one choice for patients in other states where medical marijuana is legal. (It’s much cheaper than tinctures or vape oils). The committee also heard from patients who admitted they’re smoking weed so they can benefit from the “entourage effect” you can only get from whole flower.

“Patients are going to continue to use flower whether or not you do this (legalize smoking) or not. They’re going to either get it from the black market, as they already are, because they know it’s what works for them. Every other state in this country is laughing at us, saying that we gave our patients tinctures, and we have wax and shatter on the shelves, and not flower,” Minardi said.

“Do you understand the impact of that and how ironic that is? You’re giving them the hard stuff, but not letting them have the beer but take a shot of tequila. That’s what that’s equivalent to,” he went on.

We’re pretty sure that most of the members of the committee have no clue what “wax” or “shatter” is, but who hasn’t had a Dos Equis followed by a shot of Cuervo Gold?

Lawmakers are taking the wrong approach with filters, if they’re concerned about screening toxins out of joints, according to Minardi.

“A bong hit is the best way to do that,” he advised.

The pre-rolled, filtered MMJ “cigarettes” are sure to be a negotiation point between the House and Senate as they try to meet Gov. Ron DeSantis’ March 15 deadline to nix the smoking ban.

Sen. Jeff Brandes’ proposal, approved by the Innovation, Infrastructure and Technology Committee yesterday afternoon, doesn’t have any restrictions on whole flower sold at dispensaries, and would allow patients to buy equipment at smoke shops.

The buy-your-bong-at-a-bong-shop provision will likely be another item on the negotiation table.

RayRod on pot: Speed it up, already

IMG_1190House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who shepherded a major medical marijuana measure through the Legislature earlier this year, said the House shares the frustration expressed by a Senate panel last month about delays in issuing new licenses.

“We appropriated money to the Department of Health to hire more employees because that’s critical for them to accomplish everything we directed them to accomplish,” the Estero Republican told reporters at The Associated Press annual pre-session gathering of reporters and editors Thursday.

He praised Office of Medical Marijuana Use Executive Director Christian Bax’s for hiring “top-level administrators” first and empowering them to “go out and build their own teams.”

“So I don’t disagree with the strategy, but I think the pace could have been quicker. I would like to see it quicker,” he said.

Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young blasted Bax for blaming delays with the new licenses, legislatively mandated to be issued by Oct. 3, on litigation challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

“I do not agree with the path that they have chosen to take, to say that because there’s a lawsuit that has been filed, we’re not going to issue any of the additional licenses. I think they could move forward on all of the other licenses and lay aside the ones that aren’t in litigation until the court has provided direction,” Rodrigues said. “We would like to see the process move quicker.”

Lawmakers aren’t the only ones who are frustrated.

Businesses hoping to cash in on Florida’s burgeoning marijuana industry are even more jittery after health officials gave out another marijuana license to a South Florida applicant.

Since the agency granted a license to Homestead-based St. Germain Nursery Farms, there are only four licenses available to new entrants to the state’s marijuana market, according to the Department of Health.

That includes one that’s set aside for a black farmer who meets certain conditions, a provision that’s the subject of the legal challenge.

Health officials have to give preference to the citrus industry in two other licenses, meaning that there’s possibly only one license that doesn’t have any restrictions up for grabs.

Don’t expect any tweaks to the law during the 2018 session that begins in January, at least for now.

“The issue becomes we passed that bill in special session, which was in the summer, and we’re having an early session, which is January. I’m not sure the bill’s actually been implemented for us to determine what we need to go back and tweak yet. So that’s not to say there won’t be anything done. We’ll see if the Senate has an appetite. But I would say our initial position is we would like to see the bill implemented to determine where the weaknesses are that we need to go back and readdress,” Rodrigues said.