Florida Republicans are now pointing the finger at each over the legislative dysfunction that will likely prevent the state’s newfound medical marijuana program from being launched in a manner close to what was originally approved by the voters back in November.
According to a report in the Panama City News Herald, House and Senate leaders are on the verge of meeting out behind the Capitol Building in Tallahassee to duke it out over the debacle last week that put the outcome of the state’s medical marijuana law in the hands of the state Health Department.
Senate President Joe Negron says it is was the House that ultimately sabotaged the possibility of getting a reasonable medical marijuana bill off the ground before the end of the session.
“People are saying the House was the free market. No, it wasn't. The Senate was the free market. The Senate was 10 immediate licenses. We put a reasonable limitation on dispensaries so everyone could compete,” Negron told The News Service of Florida.
However, House Speaker Richard Corcoran argues that it was Negron that prevented a workable bill from reaching the finish line.
“The House did everything it could to pass a bill that complied with the voters' wishes on everything we could, including sending a bill back with over three hours left in session for the Senate to be able to pass,” Corcoran told the news source on Sunday.
But this is not the way Negron remembers it.
He says the Senate never received a revised bill from the House during the eleventh hour of the session. Yet, Corcoran believes, if his claim is true, it is only because the Senate made the decision to call it quits several hours before the session was technically over.
The majority of the state legislature’s disaccord was over many dispensaries the state would permit.
During the negotiations, the House proposed a limit of 100 for each medical marijuana license holder, which was then countered by the Senate to the tune of 15. However, according to Negron, the Senate’s low ball was just a ploy to get the House to agree on a more respectable number.
“I didn't think 100 was a serious proposal,” he said. “So when we went to 15, I was expecting the House to consider a number that was at least in the ballpark of reasonableness. Instead they go from 50 to 100 and then they don't even send us the bill.”
Although reports indicate that the state’s medical marijuana bill died because of the House and Senate, Negron says, “A [more] reasonable interpretation is that the bill died in the House.”
In the end, the Senate simply did not want hundreds of dispensaries operating across the state. But the House said their proposal was the only way to ensure hundreds of thousands of Florida patients would receive ample access to medical marijuana products.
“If President Negron is blaming the House, I'd be happy to expand the call and have the Senate pass the House bill,” Corcoran said.
Interestingly, the blame game does not stop with the Republicans.
Florida attorney John Morgan, the man who financed a large portion of the campaign to get Amendment 2 in front of the voters in 2014 and 2016, says he blames his former right hand man, Ben Pollara, executive director for Florida for Care, for the deadlock.
“Ben Pollara fucked the patients,” Morgan told FloridaPolitics.com, arguing that Pollara fought for his own businesses interests, instead of looking out for the sick people the program was designed to help. Pollara denies the accusation.
Morgan said over the weekend that he now plans to petition Governor Rick Scott for a special session in order to get Amendment 2 off the ground.