ACTION ALERT: Call Tallahassee About Medical Cannabis
On March 14 and 15th, Dr. Gordon and I traveled to the Florida State Capital in Tallahassee. The goal was to meet with as many legislators as possible to lobby on behalf of our patients for a fair medical cannabis program.
We were able to meet with a few dozen decision makers, and we learned quickly that your voice is absolutely necessary for the proper implementation of the constitutionally mandated program.
What you need to know
- There have been 6 bills introduced to implement Amendment 2 – five from the Senate, one from the House.
- The House bill, introduced by Representative (and House Majority Leader) Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) is HB 1397. It is the most restrictive and conservative piece of legislation that has been offered this session.
- Five Senate bills have been introduced – SB 406 (Bradley), SB 614 (Brandes), SB 1388 (Artiles), SB 1666 (Braynon), SB 1758 (Grimsley).
- While most of the above bills maintain the status quo, SB 614 is the only “free market” piece of legislation introduced. It abolishes the current Office of Compassionate Use system, allows for flower to be sold and smoked, allows for edibles to be produced and sold, and creates 4 different licenses – cultivation, processing, transport, dispensary. SB 614 has three co-sponsors – Senator Greg Steube (R-Sarasota), Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St Petersburg), and Senator Linda Steward (D-Tallahassee). This bill is the best chance we have for a fair and functional medical cannabis system in Florida.
- While both houses of legislature and the Governor are all Republicans, the Senate is more socially liberal than the House of Representatives. Under Speaker Corcoran’s leadership, the Florida House has crafted a bill that would create the most restrictive and complex practice of medicine in the United States. Representative Rodrigues’ bill has angered some centrist and liberal factions within the body. High level sources have hinted that the ultra conservative medical cannabis bill within the house will not advance, allowing for the conservative House to “wash their hands” of having to implement an expanded medical cannabis program in Florida, thus leaving it to the Senate to implement.
- The word is Wednesday, March 22nd, all 5 pieces of Senate legislation will be discussed in a meeting of the Committee on Health Policy. The committee intends to “workshop” the bills, meaning debate will occur and public comment will be allowed.
- When submitted to committee, a bill can be passed, amended, or killed. Additionally, the committee can (and may) take pieces from all of the bills and form them into one, new bill.
- Dr. Gordon and myself had an in-person meeting with Senator Dana Young, the Chair of the Committee on Health Policy. She informed us that she originally had wanted to take a more conservative approach on medical cannabis implementation, but upon further thought felt the need to advocate on behalf of the patient. She told us the thought of patients suffering has “kept her up at night” recently.
Senator Young urged us to mobilize medical cannabis supporters to call their Senators and Representatives and advocate for “whichever bill we feel best”. We feel that SB614 is the only path to a patient focused program.
The time is NOW to call the Florida House of Representatives and Senate to demand a fair medical cannabis program.
Don’t email, don’t comment or message on social media. Pick up the phone and call.
Each Senator has three legislative assistants, two in Tallahassee and one in their district office. Each House member has just two legislative assistants. When you call an official’s office, you’ll be talking to one of 2 or 3 staff members. These diligent employees will notate every point you make and will hand deliver your message to the Senator or House member you’ve called.
Who should you call?
You can start by calling your elected officials. Click this link to find your House Representative. Click this link to find your Senator. You can simply enter your home address and it will populate the information you need. Make sure you call your legislator’s Capital office, as they are currently in session and not in their districts. You can reach someone in the office Monday thru Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Additionally, we urge you to call the members of the Senate Committee on Health Policy:
Senator Dana Young
Senator Kathleen Passidomo
Senator Lauren Book
Senator Dorothy L. Hukill
Senator Travis Hutson
Senator Bill Montford
Senator Bobby Powell
It would also be beneficial to call the House leadership:
Speaker Richard Corcoran
Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues
When people think of a lobbyist, they think of a person who professionally lobbies elected officials. The founding principal of our democracy is, however, the ability of the people to personally petition their elected officials for whichever cause they feel necessary.
In order to effectively lobby your position, we recommend the following:
- Always be polite and courteous. No matter how passionate you are about an issue, your views will likely be discounted if you are overly aggressive or profane in your approach.
- Don’t threaten lawmakers with voting them out of office. This will do nothing, as you are hinging your argument on speculation. If a lawmaker doesn’t vote to implement a program that aligns with your beliefs, feel free to lobby them out of office while they’re running for re-election. The legislature currently in place is the legislature that will craft this plan – like it or not.
- Do not use stoner slang. Words like “weed”, “pot”, “stoned”, and “high” discredit the argument for the medical use of cannabis.
- Know that legislative offices receive many phone calls per day. Maximize your time and make your argument efficiently and quickly.
- It is your right to request a personal conversation with whichever official you’d like.
- Reference bills by number. Tallahassee is a world of numbers. Don’t say “I support the Brandes bill”, rather say “I support SB614”.
- Mention that the program is currently the most restrictive practice of medicine in the United States, and that physicians should have the right to diagnose and enter patient into the program per their own professional expertise.
- Demand removal of the 90-day patient establishment requirement. No other practice of medicine has this uncompassionate requirement.
- Discuss the importance of a solid, third party testing system for all medicinal cannabis products.
- Kindly remind the legislative assistants that nearly 7 million Florida voters approved Amendment 2, giving the ballot initiative more votes than any issue or politician in the state (including Donald Trump).
- The only way the medical cannabis program will function in Florida is with an open market. Cite the recent experience New York state has had with their vertical integration system. This article from the Buffalo News last week spells out the problems that Florida will face if the current system is allowed to continue.
- Tallahassee is petrified of an “open recreational” system coming to Florida. Remind the legislature that this program is for chronically ill patients certified by a doctor. This is not a system created for recreational use, but rather to help sick people feel better without manufactured pharmaceuticals.
Above all, share this post with other people you know who support fair access to medical marijuana. We have less than a week to have our voices heard.