Florida's Gov is Trying to Starve the Cannabis Beast... but the Beast is HUNGRY
The most recent Florida state budget was passed in March and took effect in July, weighing in at a whopping $89 billion, a new record high.
Topping the list of line items was emergency disaster relief and prevention, with a constant threat of hurricanes and the Parkland school shooting still fresh on residents’ minds.
For example, the budget allocates $67 million to arm and provide weapon training for select public school staff members.
Lower on the list, at $53 million is an expenditure to combat the state’s raging opioid addiction epidemic.
Also raging is the ongoing battle in the state’s courts to allow legally registered medical marijuana patients to, ya know, smoke marijuana. Hell, the cannabis plant itself may as well have its own slot on November’s ballot as the future of the state’s legal weed movement hangs in the balance.
Here’s an idea for Florida lawmakers – take a look at the stats coming back from around the country showing sharp declines in opioid use in communities that embrace cannabis legalization. Then you can shift some of that $53 mill over to your underfunded Office of Medical Marijuana Use.
Yeah that’s right, the already starving department was given just $935,000 for the next fiscal year, barely enough to keep the lights on.
So what gives? In a year that saw the allegedly fiscally conservative governor sign a record setting spending bill, how could they not even come up with a nice round million bucks for cannabis regulation?
Well, it turns out, even a million would have been insultingly low.
14x too low, in fact.
Yep, the office is expecting their costs to exceed $14,000,000 in the upcoming year, leaving a massive gap in between what they need and what they received.
That drastic discrepancy has raised the eyebrows of cannabis advocates in the Sunshine State who are wondering if the powers that be are intentionally setting the state’s MMJ program up to fail.
For example, just to process the incoming applications for dispensary licenses alone in the new fiscal year is estimated to clock in at well over $7,000,000. State regulators say that it costs over $18,000 to review EACH application.
The office says it needs nearly three and a half million for a ‘seed-to-sale’ tracking system, another $1,600,000 for actual physical medical marijuana ID cards, and roughly that much again to set aside for legal fees.
It has got to be pretty damn hard to do any of that very well if you’re supposed to run the entire ship with $900k.
This was the argument of Florida Democrats like 2018 state senate candidate Janet Cruz.
Pressure from the political left, in conjunction with the voices of the 70%+ of the voting constituency who demanded safe access to medical marijuana with the passage of Amendment 2 in 2016, forced Governor Rick Scott to finally concede and sign an emergency appropriations bill to fill the $13,000,000+ gap in the budget of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use that was apparently overlooked.
Still, the conservatives in Florida are withholding well over half of the money requested by the office until regulators can “prove” that they “need” it. Ya know, like your 3rd Period Biology teacher needs a Glock .45 …
This, cannabis-friendly critics say, is the state’s Republican leadership doing all they can to stall or delay the inevitable success of a medical marijuana program that their political rivals are running on protecting.
Adding irony to idiocy, it has been demonstrated time and again that any cannabis legalization and regulation program that is given proper funding almost immediately becomes a cash cow, raking in enough revenues to sustain itself as well as repair local schools and infrastructure.
If you live in Florida and if you love cannabis – pay attention to the choices that you are given on this November’s ballot.
Florida’s weed laws are sitting in the eye of a gathering political storm right now and your vote will help determine if they can ride it out or be blown apart.