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Nikki Fried Blasts DeSantis For Limiting Medical Marijuana

“You wanted to come out here and hurt the patients of the state,” Fried said of the Florida Department of Health

Vanity Fair

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took a strong stand this week against new caps on medical marijuana allotments imposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ administration.

In Tallahassee Thursday with Cannabis advocates, Commissioner Fried objected to new limits on concentrates, reports Florida Politics.

The Florida Department of Health imposed a cap last month on patients. The cap restricts them to 24,500 MG of THC per 70-day period, in the wake of Emergency Rule 64ER22-8 from the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Boon For The Illegal Market?

The rule establishes daily limits for each individual route of administration in categories ranging from edibles and topicals to vape carts and concentrates. But for many patients, the aggregate cap is the real issue.

For some patients, the new restrictions subvert doctors’ recommendations. The new limits restrict patients from buying more medicine until they are below the rolling cap. In theory at least, that could certainly be a boon for the illegal market as patients seek relief.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried [WEAR-TV]

The rule does at least allow for doctors to petition for exceptions on behalf of patients to both the new regulation and a parallel rolling cap on marijuana flower. The Florida OMMU apparently designed that new concession to soften the blow for patients.

Fried: An ”Act Of Cruelty”

Yet despite that potential window for exception, Fried and others condemn what they call DeSantis’ latest crackdown on the medical marijuana program. Fried said the emergency rule is an “act of cruelty. The agriculture commissioner believes the new limits are meant to circumvent patient input with bureaucratic nonsense.

“You wanted to come out here and hurt the patients of the state,” Fried said of the Florida Department of Health.

“Instead of moving this program forward, they have continued their assault on patient rights,” Fried said. Patients got less than three days’ notice when learning that access is cut by as much as two-thirds.

“Roll back these limits,” Fried demanded.

Physician: “The Doctor Should Not Be Encumbered”

Dr. Barry Gordon, serving on FDACS’ Medical Marijuana Advisory Commission, gave Fried some backup.

“Cannabis can be utilized safely and effectively by the citizens of the state of Florida,” Gordon said. The physician noted his patients want “safe” and “legal” palliatives and that the new caps “get in the way of the doctor/patient relationship.” More elastic limits, Gordon said, allow patients to experiment with treatments that work best for them.

“You need all the routes and the doctor should not be encumbered,” said Gordon, an authorizing doctor for six years.

“Disaster” For Florida’s Medical Marijuana Program

Commissioner Fried’s criticisms of the DeSantis-era stewardship of the medical cannabis program have ramped. This is particularly true under current Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, whom Fried said is nothing short of a “disaster” for the medical marijuana program.

Many of her previous complaints converged on increasing access for smaller-capital and minority growers to enter Florida’s surging cannabis space. Friend revisited that topic on Thursday.

She also objected to the end of telehealth for doctor consultations. State regulators allowed telehealth sessions during the pandemic. But last year, the DeSantis administration ended them.

Fried has also been a frequent critic of vertical integration. She said last month that the current 22 licenses for Florida’s Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers fell 16 short of what statute requires. Fried reiterated that point on Thursday.

Unfair Advantage To Multistate Corporations

The program did not allow new companies into the market in a way that would comply with state law in recent years, Fried said. She said Florida’s current statutes give unfair advantage to multistate operators. These deep-pocketed ”Big Pot” corporations dominate the marijuana business in many legal states.

Gov. DeSantis, as part of his Trumpian anti-“woke” culture wars, claimed concern about the marijuana “cartel” dominating Florida’s medical market.

But the Governor’s supposed concern for free market dynamics in Florida’s Cannabis business soon enough gave way to other, even more petty complaints.

DeSantis: ”It Smells So Putrid”

This is especially true, for some odd reason, of odor issues.

“What I don’t like about it is if you go to some of these places that have done it, the stench when you’re out there, I mean, it smells so putrid,” DeSantis told reporters in Tallahassee in January. That was apparently the most intelligent response the governor could give to the potential legalization of adult-use cannabis in the Sunshine State.

DeSantis recently said he wants to up the price to play in Floria’s increasingly commercialized marijuana industry. The governor believes that cost should be much higher. This, of course, would certainly freeze out the mom-and-pop businesses which are the source of most of the innovation in the weed space.

“I would charge them an arm and a leg,” DeSantis said in typically abrasive fashion in August. ”I mean, everybody wants these licenses,” DeSantis said.

The governor suggests that restricting market access is a good thing. However, that particular move that would almost certainly stack the deck even farther in favor of highly capitalized national corporations. That means they’d have an unfair advantage over Florida-based providers of the same products.

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