TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Senate on Friday passed a long-awaited medical cannabis bill.
"It lays the foundation upon which we can build," Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson said.
But even elected officials who voted for the bill complained that it was severely lacking, including a controversial ban on smoking the dried flower in favor of edibles and vaping.
"If they want to smoke it, they should be able to smoke it. The train has already left the station on this," Democratic state Sen. Kevin Rader said.
The bill adds 10 licensed growers to the seven that currently exist, but many say that's too few and that the "seed to sale" vertical integration model will hurt competition and lead to high prices for patients.
"I fear that what we've done here is driven the price of medical marijuana up to a place where many people are going to seek filling their prescriptions through the black market," Republican state Sen. Tom Lee said.
Attorney Michael Minardi said lawsuits are already being drafted to challenge the law as he prepared for this weekend's Southeast Cannabis Conference & Expo at the Broward County Convention Center.
"This is a constitution amendment and it overrides any legislation," he said.
Patient Irv Rosenfeld receives his medical marijuana from the federal government and will be allowed to continue smoking, but he wants that right for Floridians and said the marijuana market needs to operate on free trade principles to work for patients.
"Competition, OK, brings the price down, plus it gives you better medicine because every dispensary's going to have different strains," he said. "So, it gives the patient the best chance of getting relief for the problem they have. So, we're not going to have that opportunity, not with the way the state passed the law."
Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill, which guarantees that one of the new licenses will go to a black-owned company.