Florida medical marijuana patients are confused and distressed. It’s been 15 months since the state’s residents voted to legalize medical marijuana and qualified patients are still without their voter-approved medication.
Passed by 71.3 percent of the electorate in November 2016, there are approximately 74,000 patients waiting on one unelected bureaucrat to defend their rights – and uphold the will of the voters.
Christian Bax, the 32-year-old Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), received his MBA from Babson College in 2015 – shortly before he was appointed to his current position. While procedures were established and timelines settled, the intent of Amendment 2 has yet to become reality.
Director Bax, considered inept by many, is responsible for the awarding process of all cultivation licenses in the state. Now under the spotlight of scrutiny, Bax was recently grilled by a joint legislative oversight committee that “delivered a public shaming” to Florida’s newbie “pot czar.”
Expect possible fireworks at 2:30 JAPC mtg today, as chair Sen Kevin Rader calls on @FLGovScott's Department of Health to account for multiple delays in implementing FL's #MedicalMarijuana law and foot dragging on allowing Floridians to access the medical relief they voted for.
— FL Senate Dems (@FLSenateDems) February 5, 2018
Questioned by the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee chair, Sen. Kevin Rader (D-Delray Beach) cast some serious shade on Bax and his struggling OMMU. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Rader and the committee were more than a little curious about several revisions issued by the OMMU.
“The items under scrutiny ranged from identification cards for caregivers of sick patients to a provision banning applicants seeking medical-marijuana licenses from amending their applications. The prohibition conflicts with state law requiring state agencies to give applicants time to correct errors or provide additional information.”
Considered a Republican stronghold, Florida is governed by Rick Scott (R) and has a Republican-controlled House and Senate. A midterm election issue for the GOP, they’re concerned by their constituent’s frustration over the lack of access to medicinal cannabis and are anxious to find out why Bax refuses to issue the cultivation licenses to potential growers.
A poll conducted Feb. 12 by the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida revealed marijuana legalization is significantly more popular among voters than either of the Democratic or Republican candidates. While 62 percent of those surveyed support the outright legalization of adult-use marijuana in the Sunshine State, candidates from both sides of the political divide suffered serious name recognition issues.
The delay was instigated when a Tallahassee judge ruled in favor of Columbus Smith, a Black farmer from Panama City seeking one of the 10 cultivation licenses awarded by the state under Amendment 2. In citing a 1999 class action lawsuit filed against the United States Department Of Agriculture – otherwise known as the “Pigford Cases” – Smith argued that one of the state’s 10 cultivation licenses must be awarded to a black cultivator.
The Pigford rulings – meant to ensure that a historically disadvantaged population be protected from further discrimination – would typically be embraced and considered significant progress in most states. But in Florida, where the purity of politics block the will of the people, Columbus Smith and his lawsuit are being scapegoated as an excuse to delay the implementation of medical marijuana – rather than addressing the racially charged issue.
According to Florida Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who issued a temporary injunction against the implementation of specific “portion” of Amendment 2 on behalf of Mr. Smith, noted:
“Plaintiff will likely suffer irreparable harm if this court does not enjoin the department from issuing the black farmer license because the law only applies to members of the association and plaintiff will not be able to apply or qualify for such a license, because he is not a member of the association.”
Florida’s OMMU, which was given the mission of devising and implementing the rules and regulations to successfully roll out Amendment 2, has cast blame on administrative challenges and mounting lawsuits for the postponement. To view a video of the Feb. 5 Joint Administrative Procedures Committee hearing, click on the image below.