Florida House Seeks State Action on Medical Marijuana
Department of Health had to face penalty in form of frozen salary and expenses worth $2.1 million for their failure to address the concerns raised by a joint legislative committee over three emergency rules pertaining to medical marijuana.
When Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford tagged the amendment with the House’s proposed health care spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year on Wednesday morning, there was no debate going on this issue. It was later that Brodeur informed The News Service of Florida, that he sponsored the amendment because of the department’s lack of interest and initiative regarding following of Legislature’s direction regarding medical marijuana.
“There have been a number of instances where they have missed deadlines and implementation of the medical marijuana law. They have yet to respond to a number of letters sent to them on behalf of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee. And so now I think we’ll get their attention that they need to respond to those,” he said.
Since the approval of use of medical marijuana in 2016 through overwhelming votes, The Department of Health has not shown a proactive stance in establishing regulations required to implement both the use of low-THC, or non-euphoric medical marijuana as well as traditional marijuana for medical uses. On the other hand, Director, Office of Medical Marijuana Use, Christian Bax and other health officials claimed that the delays are due to legal and administrative challenges.
The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee has notified Bax and Amanda Bush, a senior attorney with the Department of Health with the concerns regarding marijuana regulations since October. The main focus was on the emergency rules that the department failed to implement and instead proposed rules that should replace the emergency rules. It has been three months since the first correspondence but Bax’s office has failed to respond to the letters as well as to a follow-up request for information following Bax’s appearance before the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee in December.
The News Service of Florida obtained copies of ten letters sent to Bax’s office by the committee between October and January showing concerns about emergency rules. The committee’s chief attorney Marjory C. Halloday for instance, has sent 18-page letter to Bush communicating her concerns regarding the kind of penalties medical marijuana treatment centers would have to face for violating the rules. The said letter sent on 9th October, also questioned why the rule used the term “medical cannabis”, instead of “medical marijuana” that is used in the law.
Similarly, Joint Administrative Procedures Committee Coordinator, Kenneth Plante also addressed Bax in a letter showing his concerns about establishing standards for medical marijuana centers and their production of edible products. On December 18, another letter is sent to Bax by Plante inquiring about the pesticides and for copies of standards and protocols used by laboratories that are working with medical marijuana treatment centers.
In response to aforementioned correspondence, Department of Health spokeswoman, Mara Gambineri said that the agency is diligently working to respond to the concerns communicated by JAPC and will meet with the committee on Monday.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Wednesday evening ensured his support to Brodeur’s initiative and said, “I think anytime we can exert influence in trying to get things moving the way they should, if we have that opportunity, we ought to take it so long as it’s the right thing to do.”