Florida can’t quite seem to get marijuana policy right.
We are not purists, but when a well-known Tampa Bay-area strip club owner wins the moral high ground, chances are quite good you are doing something wrong.
For this impasse at least, you cannot blame Florida Man, but you can blame Florida lawmakers and regulators.
Voters in the state overwhelmingly legalized medical marijuana more than two years ago now. The questions of how to exactly deliver cannabis to people who need it were left to state regulators who promptly banned marijuana in its most familiar and popular form, while also creating what might be the some of the big business-friendliest rules seen in American marijuana.
Much of this mess is locked in the courts. A lower-court judge struck down the state’s ban on smokable flower cannabis, but the state Attorney General has appealed. Other challenges to how licenses are awarded and a challenge to the state’s ban on home-grown marijuana are also pending.
Florida patients can’t smoke weed, but amazingly, they also can’t eat it because the state Department of Health has yet to write rules dictating how edible marijuana is processed and sold. Sometime between legalization of medical cannabis and now, regulators were supposed to address edible cannabis, a hugely popular method of ingesting the drug, and one that health-conscious officials, so leery of smoking, ought to have embraced early on.
But they haven’t, and so as a result, there are no edibles in Florida. This has not stopped prominent edibles companies active in other states from taking one look at the potential in Florida (with its 21 million people, many of whom are older retirees and thus ideal customers for cannabis products) and signing on speculative agreements to sell edible cannabis, when and if the “regulatory landscape” improves.
As for when that will be? Nobody can say. There is no timeline, there is no deadline, and there does not appear to be much movement at the state Health Department or any kind of sense of urgency to change any of that, leaving Florida patients — and the black market — with a DIY edibles scene and not much else.
Why is this? Why has it taken this long? It makes no sense. Blame may be partly laid at the feet of Rick Scott, Florida’s outgoing governor, who made a fortune in the private healthcare industry, who generally took a disinterested approach to cannabis.
It is likely that his replacement, Ron DeSantis, will be more keen to give his citizens what they want, the Tampa Bay Times recently guessed. According to the Times, DeSantis’s administration is “not interested in continuing” the legal fights keeping homegrow and smoked cannabis away from Floridians. If that obstructionism evaporates, that could mean good things for edibles.
But that would require action rather than merely the removal of an obstacle. A DeSantis Health Department may at last figure out how to instruct Florida companies how to combine fat-soluble cannabis with a fat like oil and then infused that oil into something humans can eat, but they’d still have to do it, and there’s no promise for when that might finally happen, or how long it could take.
Until then, Florida men and women are stuck illegally importing edibles from other states or making their own.
TELL US, do you medicate with cannabis edibles?