Locals, Stakeholders Lash Out Against New Cannabis Legislation

Jul 7, 2017

Credit Nick Evans

Local officials and cannabis advocates are chafing under Florida’s latest medical marijuana legislation.  But they’re reacting to the new regime in different ways.

“I love the location right across from Whole Foods,” Daniel McVay says walking up to Knox Medical’s first Tallahassee dispensary.  “Just beautifully centrally located.”

McVay helps lead retail for Knox Medical.  The Winter Garden marijuana grower is hoping to open its Tallahassee facility, its third statewide, by the end of the month.

“It’s very modern, it’s very Apple feeling,” McVay says looking around the lobby.  “There’s wood walls, a glass partition between the veranda and the atrium area with a very modern looking couch.  There’s white flooring that has this gold sparkle to it.  It feels very clean.”

McVay explains the company has similar shops in the works for Jacksonville, Lake Worth and St. Petersburg.  They’re hoping to have this first slate of locations up and running sometime around the end of summer. 

“We’re in one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and perhaps the world,” McVay says.  “So you know being able to be a part of that I think we’re all humbled that we can do this kind of work.”

But many local government don’t share McVay’s optimism.

“Our proposal is to do an outright ban of the medical dispensaries within the city,” Winter Garden city manager Mike Bollhoefer explains.

Reporting from The Orlando Sentinel says Orlando and Winter Park could follow the same course. 

“In the legislation they did not give us really the ability to zone where these dispensaries would go or the ability to limit the number of them,” Bollhoefer says.  “So based on that we decided we’d go with an outright ban which was allowed in the new legislation.”

The new law prohibits local governments from enacting zoning laws more restrictive than those on the books for pharmacies.  In Tallahassee, Mayor Andrew Gillum is just as frustrated with the new provisions, but the city is moving in a different direction.

“The ordinance that we had had in the pipeline—it would have been on last week, Wednesday I guess on its final reading.  We would have taken action, likely to adopt,” Gillum says.  “We pulled it because basically the attorney said that it’s been pre-empted and therefore we no longer have any jurisdiction.”

John Morgan speaking with reporters.
Credit Nick Evans

Personal injury lawyer John Morgan—perhaps the state’s loudest voice on cannabis—is lashing out against the new law as well, suing the state over its prohibition of smoking.  He argues the cannabis amendment he bankrolled prohibits smoking in public—implying smoking in private is legal, and he dismisses the contention the language should’ve addressed smoking more explicitly

“I could’ve said you’re not allowed to swim before 8 o clock,” Morgan says.  “I don’t think I need to tell people they are allowed to swim after 8 o clock.  It speaks for itself.”

“Now if you can’t figure that out, I don’t know, I can’t help them for that.”

And Morgan is calling out the measure’s House sponsor Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) for the smoking ban.  He says qualifying patients have more pressing concerns.

“ALS, AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, it goes on and on and on,” Morgan says.  “And for Ray Rodrigues to say he’s concerned about a cancer patient smoking a few hits of marijuana so they can kill the nausea is ridiculous.”

Morgan’s case will start in a Leon County Circuit Court, but a hearing date hasn’t been set.