Medical marijuana lobbyists appeal to Florida lawmakers


Courtesy of Google Images.

The Florida chapters of the national marijuana advocacy lobbyist group NORML are expected to lobby Florida lawmakers this week.

The lobbying session will be an all-day affair on Wednesday, beginning at 8 a.m. and lasting until 4 p.m.

“Florida NORML chapters are aggressively lobbying the Florida House and Senate now,” said Melissa Villar, executive director of NORML’s Tallahassee chapter.  “Last year, chapters from across the country were able to lobby in D.C. While members of the organization and interested cannabis community members in the area made the journey, unfortunately, the Florida chapters did not officially make the trip.”

Despite previously missing the opportunity to appear in front of the United States Congress, the chance to make their case to Florida’s elected officials may prove to be more crucial for NORML’s Florida chapters in coming years. President Trump has said that he intends to leave marijuana legislation in the hands of the states, and while Florida has recently passed pro-marijuana statutes, NORML believes there is still much more work to be done.

Tallahassee NORML’s current legislative priorities include: mandatory discounts for individuals on fixed incomes, pricing transparency from qualified medical marijuana physicians and a fix to the current medical marijuana set-up, which they describe as a “pay to play scheme” due to the high prices in Florida’s medical marijuana industry.

“[Florida] medical marijuana patients must pay anywhere from $420 to $169 for an initial consultation with a qualified medical marijuana physician,” Villar explained. “Right now, only one office, DocMJ, allows for a payment plan of $30 a month for seven months. Initial consultations in other states range from $49 to $79. It’s not covered by insurance, so all costs are out-of-pocket.

“Once a patient is approved, the medical marijuana ID card issued from the Department of Health is $75 plus the cost of the medical marijuana and devices.  Some patients spend $250 a week on medicine. You cannot walk out of a [medical marijuana treatment center] without spending $25 for a few days supply. Patients will spend hundreds of dollars a month to have legal medical marijuana.”   

Established in 1970, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws advocates for “the rights of responsible cannabis consumers.” According to its mission statement, NORML seeks to “move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.”

The lobby day was preceded by an orientation, press conference and music event on Tuesday, with the press conference hosted by State Rep. Carlos Smith.