Telehealth Medical Cannabis Prescriptions Could Be Coming to Florida Under New Bill

Discreet prescription refills via telehealth visits are already the norm for medications like hair loss and erectile dysfunction medication for men, which is easier to do when it’s not in-person. The same methods could be used to be discreet and quietly get prescriptions for medical cannabis under a new Florida bill.

House Bill 387 is sponsored by Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) and would allow practitioners to certify patients for medical cannabis via FaceTime, Skype, etc. visits rather than in-person visits. Roach told the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee that the bill would “treat this (medical marijuana) like any other medicine.”

Doctors in Florida are doing it anyway, and the bill would simply make the practice legal, lawmakers said in so many words. It would also organize the way the rules are enforced. The bill “would add a necessary and immediate tool to help the department when physicians break the rules,” Roach added.

Barry Gordon specializes in medical cannabis care in Venice, Florida. He told the House panel that using telehealth to be certified would benefit some of the sickest Floridians—the ones who need it most.

“It’s a cost-savings for patients, it’s safe for patients, and it’s critical,” Gordon said at the hearing. “You have to remember that our patients are sometimes the most debilitated and weakest of the patients here in Florida.”

The Tampa Bay Times reports that over 2,500 doctors in Florida completed the training that allows them to order medical cannabis for patients. Voters said yes in 2016 by approving a constitutional amendment that legalizes medical cannabis. Nearly 800,000 patients have been certified for medical cannabis so far.

Currently, doctors must provide a physical examination of a patient “while physically present in the same room as the patient” before certifying them and ordering medical cannabis.

Not so fast, though. The bill also would allow the Department of Health to suspend a physician from being able to order medical cannabis for up to two years if he or she “provides, advertises or markets telehealth services prior to July 1, 2023.”

Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) filed a similar bill for consideration during the 60-day legislative session.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended the state’s face-to-face requirement for medical cannabis due to COVID-19, but it only applied for patients who were renewing medical cannabis certifications. People who need to see new doctors are out of luck. DeSantis’s executive order expired in 2021, but some doctors continue to use telehealth to recertify patients anyways.

Medical Cannabis in Florida

Florida’s Department of Health recently announced that it will open a new round of licensing for medical marijuana businesses that will double the number of vertically integrated cannabis operators in the state. In an emergency rule, the health department revealed that 22 new medical cannabis business licenses will be available, a move that would double the 22 operators currently licensed to produce and sell medical marijuana in Florida. The new emergency rule comes more than six years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis.

Meanwhile, the WISE & Free Florida committee is seeking to get home growing in Florida via a proposal on the 2024 ballot, according to the state Division of Elections website. In order to do this, they would need to submit 891,589 valid petition signatures.

Similarly, Smart & Safe Florida is seeking to get an amendment on the 2024 ballot that would legalize adult-use cannabis. The Smart & Safe Florida committee submitted 291,999 valid signatures as of Friday.

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Florida Group Submits 420,000 Signatures for Cannabis Amendment—Halfway to Qualifying for Ballot

The group that is powering a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis in Florida is halfway to its goal of getting the measure on next year’s ballot.

According to the News Service of Florida, supporters of the proposed amendment “have submitted more than 420,000 valid petition signatures to the state,” and they will “need to submit at least 891,589 signatures to get on the ballot” in 2024.

“Last month, the committee topped a 222,898-signature threshold needed to trigger a crucial Florida Supreme Court review of the proposed ballot wording,” the News Service reported.

The group behind the effort, Smart and Safe Florida, is being heavily backed by the medical cannabis company Trulieve, which has a significant presence in the Sunshine State.

Smart and Safe Florida launched its campaign last summer.

“We came into this with a mission to provide access to high-quality products that are safe and have an appropriate value proposition to give folks control over their—in the original days—medical journey,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said at the time. “I don’t think that changes here. I mean, in effect we are at our core about expanding the opportunity for access to safe legal product, which is what this would allow us to continue to do.”

Trulieve donated $5 million last summer when the campaign launched.

According to the News Service of Florida, the company “had spent $25 million as of the end of January on the Smart & Safe Florida initiative.”

The amendment would legalize the possession and consumption of cannabis for adults in Florida aged 21 and older, and would also set the framework for a state-regulated pot industry. 

Specifically, the measure would enable the state’s existing medical cannabis facilities to transition into recreational pot dispensaries.

Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2016.

“One of the interesting aspects here is that we do have [a] medical-cannabis market and we have hundreds of thousands of patients in Florida who are utilizing medical cannabis regularly. So our ability to reach out and to have more direct communication…is a bit unique from a positioning perspective,” Rivers said in the summer.

Activists in Florida have been stymied in their previous attempts to get marijuana legalization over the line, including most recently in 2021, when an initiative was blocked by the state Supreme Court.

“Every initiative has provided some level of learning,” Rivers said last year. “With this initiative, the authors have taken a hard look at the Supreme Court rulings surrounding the previous efforts and taken that into consideration. We believe it’s a very appropriate and narrowly focused amendment that does defer appropriately to the Legislature.”

With a growing population that ranks as the third largest in the country, Florida is a coveted potential market for cannabis investors.

“Florida is definitely a market of interest, especially compared to some of the other more mature, more saturated markets,” said Jade Green, president of cannabis industry consulting firm Next Titan Capital. “The main reason is, everybody has a similar belief that, whatever happens in 2024, eventually adult-use (recreational) cannabis will come to Florida.” 

“If you can make it in Florida until rec (recreational marijuana) hits, then you will have a significant advantage in what will be one of the largest cannabis economies not just in the U.S. but in the world,” Green added.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, widely thought of as 2024 Republican presidential contender, has spoken negatively about marijuana legalization in the past.

“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 said last year.

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Florida To Double Number of Medical Cannabis Licenses

The Florida Department of Health announced last week that it will open a new round of licensing for medical marijuana businesses that will double the number of vertically integrated cannabis operators in the state. In an emergency rule released on Friday, the health department revealed that 22 new medical marijuana business licenses will be available, a move that would double the 22 operators currently licensed to produce and sell medical marijuana in Florida.

The new emergency rule comes more than six years after Florida voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the passage of a constitutional amendment ballot measure in 2016. The following year, state lawmakers passed legislation to regulate the state’s medical marijuana industry, with provisions to issue additional cannabis business licenses as the number of registered patients grew. 

With the number of registered medical marijuana patients now standing at nearly 790,000, according to data released last week, state regulators should have issued nearly two dozen medical marijuana business licenses to keep up with the program’s growth. But until last week, the Department of Health had failed to take action on issuing additional medical marijuana business licenses since the administration of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis took control of the state’s executive branch in 2019.

“This is an exciting milestone for Florida’s medical cannabis program, more than five years in the making,” Courtney Coppola, a former director of the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, told The News Service of Florida. “These additional licenses are an important step in moving the program forward for Florida’s patients and future licensees.” 

Florida Applications To Be Accepted In April

In December, cannabis regulators at the state health department announced that it had developed a process to apply for new medical marijuana business licenses, with plans to accept applications in “batching cycles,” according to media reports. Under the emergency rule published on Friday, the department will accept applications for 22 additional licenses between April 24 and April 28. Louise St. Laurent, a former general counsel for the state Department of Health, said that the state’s medical marijuana operators “are thrilled” by last week’s announcement from regulators.

“There’s been no shortage of companies waiting and watching the department for these rules since probably at least 2017 to be able to have an opportunity to be able to compete for these licenses,” St. Laurent said on Friday.

Florida’s existing medical marijuana operators were licensed under a 2014 law that legalized “non-euphoric” forms of cannabis for a limited number of patients. The new licensing round announced on Friday will be the first batch of new licenses issued since the measure to regulate the state’s medical cannabis industry was passed in 2017.

The 2017 legislation also required the Department of Health to issue a license to a Black farmer with business ties in Florida. In September, regulators announced that the license would be awarded to a man in Suwannee County, but legal challenges have forced the health department to delay issuing the license to the successful applicant.

Recreational Weed Initiative Planned For 2024

Although Florida has so far only legalized medical marijuana, a constitutional amendment campaign to legalize cannabis for use by adults is currently underway, with plans for the proposal to appear on the ballot for the 2024 election. Last week, organizers for the constitutional amendment campaign, which is largely funded by Florida’s largest medical marijuana Trulieve, submitted enough signatures from voters backing the measure to require the Florida Supreme Court to review the proposal.

Under state law, the Supreme Court must approve initiatives before they can be placed on the ballot. In 2021, Florida’s highest court used that power to strike down two separate proposals to legalize recreational marijuana, denying the state’s voters the opportunity to weigh in on the initiatives. But Jade Green, the president of cannabis industry consulting firm Next Titan Capital, believes that the fate of the 2021 proposals is not likely to impede support for this year’s attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis.

“Florida is definitely a market of interest, especially compared to some of the other more mature, more saturated markets,” said Green. “The main reason is, everybody has a similar belief that, whatever happens in 2024, eventually adult-use (recreational) cannabis will come to Florida.” 

Florida’s existing medical marijuana industry is estimated to generate about $1 billion in annual sales for the state’s operators. Adding legal recreational marijuana would open the market to all adults in the state, offering companies an added incentive to enter Florida’s medical marijuana industry.

“If you can make it in Florida until rec (recreational marijuana) hits, then you will have a significant advantage in what will be one of the largest cannabis economies not just in the U.S. but in the world,” Green said.

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Republican Congressman Reintroduces Bill To Move Cannabis to Schedule III

As many advocates are pushing for decriminalization and completely descheduling cannabis at the federal level, one Republican congressman is pushing to simply downgrade cannabis from schedule I to schedule III, which would allow for research to move forward at a faster pace and provide several other perks.

Rep. Greg Steube (R-Florida) reintroduced a bill as H.R. 610 or the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act on Jan. 27, about four years after filing a similar bill previously, along with seven other bills, according to a press release

The bill would direct the Attorney General of the United States to amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to move cannabis from schedule I to schedule III of the Act—within 60 days of the bill’s enactment.

The bill doesn’t go as far as others that would end the federal prohibition of cannabis via decriminalization or other routes. However, the bill would protect federal employees who consume cannabis, as only Schedule I or II substances are prohibited. It would also free cannabis businesses affected by Tax Code 280E, and make research a lot more feasible.

Rep. Steube filed a similar bill on Sept. 12, 2019, the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2019, which would also downgrade cannabis from schedule 1 to allow for more possibilities in research.

“As marijuana is legalized for medical and recreational use across the United States, it is important that we study the effects of the substance and the potential impacts it can have on various populations,” Congressman Steube said in 2019. “By rescheduling marijuana from a schedule I controlled substance to a schedule III controlled substance, the opportunities for research and study are drastically expanded. With this rescheduling, researchers can now access federal funds to research this substance and determine its medical value.”

The congressman acknowledged that research on cannabis is currently hampered under current conditions.

“We hear every day about the positive health benefits of marijuana. Whether it’s young children with seizure disorders, or veterans suffering from chronic pain, it is clear that there are medical benefits to marijuana and I think it’s time we remove the bureaucratic red tape that prevents us from thoroughly studying this substance,” continued Steube.

The discordant nature of state cannabis laws versus federal law makes such a bill a step, albeit rather small, in the right direction.

President Joe Biden directed an administrative review into the possibilities of rescheduling cannabis under the CSA. 

Rep. Steube’s other bills which were announced at the same time as the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act include one that would strip Disney of copyright protections and specifically target what he calls “big tech” and “woke” organizations, per the announcement. 

“The Republican majority in the 118th Congress is working to make our government accountable to the people,” said Rep. Steube. “I am reintroducing eight bills that will remove special privileges for Big Tech and woke organizations, cut taxes for Americans and prevent their money from being spent on cruel dog testing, and hold our government accountable while improving efficiency!” 

Rep. Streube also takes a controversial stance on other matters such as transgender rights, and pushed to allow guns in airports and add mandatory-minimum sentences for drug trafficking. His 2017 bill would have pushed for stricter sentences for the sale, manufacture, and delivery of cannabis and other drugs. 

On Jan. 27 the bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be determined by the Speaker.

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Kandy Boy Aims To Educate as Cannabis Consumers are Confused About Delta THC Products

The cannabis market is evolving at a rate that can quickly leave the end consumer stunned. For starters, it’s growing in size – the U.S. market, valued at $10.8 billion in 2021, is forecast to almost quadruple by the next decade, according to a Grand View Research report.

Consumer habits and opinions are changing, too. For example, a 2019 study identified a trend wherein cannabis edibles were becoming increasingly popular among non-daily users while the use of smoking marijuana was declining among both daily and non-daily users.

Finally, the legal landscape has been changing, too. With 24 states, territories, and districts allowing for legal recreational use, things are looking up for the industry. But it’s the 2018 Hemp Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp with Delta 9 THC content up to 0.3%, that’s been most influential recently. 

Courtesy of Kandy Boy

One problem with these ever-growing popular products is that the average cannabis consumer is confused by Delta 9 THC and thinks it’s Delta 8, bad, sketchy, or doesn’t get you high. All of which are false. Delta 9 THC is the same THC that cannabis consumers have consumed since the Native Americans used it. 

The Florida-based company Kandy Boy is the perfect example of a cannabis company created to take advantage of all those innovations and trends. The company’s main products are Delta 9 THC gummies that contain 15mg of Delta 9 THC and High THCa Hemp Flower, which is considered hemp under federal law but has just as much Total THC in the flower as the dispensaries. Focusing on providing products that contain the THC people are used to consuming instead of having a large variety of products like Delta 8 THC companies.

Even more interesting is that the company is legally offering to ship their Delta 9 THC gummies to all 50 states. Its website even provides free samples, allowing skeptical consumers to try the product first. The company does charge a $2.99 shipping fee for a sample of 2 of their vegan 15mg delta 9 THC gummies. 

Courtesy of Kandy Boy

From the very start, the company found it necessary to educate the consumers on their products, the process, and the broader community they served. To be able to ship to all states legally, the company relied on the wording of the Hemp Farm Bill that stated it’s able to sell hemp-derived THC as long as it stays within the 0.3% volume threshold. The products contain significant amounts of THC – the company states the gummies contain 15mg of THC, the same THC you would get at the dispensary.

“The total amount of 100% Delta 9 THC in a gummy is less than 0.3% of the gummy’s entire weight. So that’s how we can sell these across the country, and people can buy them without having a medical card,” says Benjamin Boyce, the company founder.

Legality aside, a whole other set of explanations was required to explain the difference between Delta 9 THC-tetrahydrocannabinol, or Delta 9 THC – the type of THC Kandy Boy uses – and the increasingly popular Delta 8 THC. The two compounds might belong to the same class – cannabinoids – and contain the same elements, but they are not identical. Instead, they are isomers, molecules with the same atoms but also something different. A double bond is located between the atoms in the case of Delta 9 THC and Delta 8 THC.

In a cannabis plant, most THC comes in the form of THCa and Delta 9 THC. So much so that when we talk about THC, we mean total THC, which is  THCa x 0.877 + ∆9-THC = Total THC

It’s that dominant. The significantly less present Delta 8 THC has some different properties than its isomeric companion. It’s said to be ⅓ the strength of Delta 9 THC, but more importantly, it’s not as highly regulated.

The recent boom in Delta 8 THC products has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a series of warning letters to companies selling Delta 8 THC products that are not in compliance. In addition, due to an uptick in complaints of adverse effects, the FDA also released a five-point information bulletin to inform the public of some essential facts about the isomer Delta 8 THC.

Among those are the fact that no Delta 8 products have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. Also, thanks to the production process required to create an adequate concentration of Delta 8 THC, the use of harmful chemicals might go undisclosed.

“The regular THC, Delta-9 THC has been extensively studied for decades, so we know an awful lot about it,” says Boyce. “There’s no such wealth of knowledge on Delta 8, not to mention how the lack of regulation opens up the room for bad actors to come in with the bad and potentially harmful product.”

Even though the extraction of Delta 9 THC from hemp might involve similar processes as the extraction of Delta 8 THC, the increased oversight over Delta 9 THC can lead to better quality products. It certainly does in the case of Kandy Boy – their products are tested at a DEA-approved facility, not just for their THC contents. As a result, customers can easily access the test results for heavy metals, pesticides, mold, and fungi.

Kandy Boy went a step further to make accessing their product as convenient as possible. The company recently launched its app on the App Store & Google Play and has started a delivery service around Panama City, Florida. However, Boyce said, “More people are buying off the truck while driving around than ordering off the app, but a lot of people see Delta 9 THC and think it’s something different, or it’s Delta 8. We’re working to educate the cannabis community, but to them, something like this seems unbelievable.”

Courtesy of Kandy Boy

Kandy Boy is also pushing the envelope with their latest product THCa Flower, which only ships to some states which is cannabis that may look, feel, taste, and smell exactly like marijuana and is classified as hemp when the Delta 9 THC content is less than .3% Delta 9 THC. Kandy Boy says, “You need not worry about the low Delta 9 content in our flower. In fact, most dispensary flowers are actually below 0.3% ∆9-THC. It’s the THCa that gets you high.” 

With the changing tides and opinions on the use of marijuana in the whole country, it’s sometimes easy to forget that too many people were put in jail while old laws were on the books. Kandy Boy does its part to shine the light on the plight of all those people and take concrete steps to help.

“With so many people in jail for cannabis, the Last Prisoner Project is something I support. We are currently donating 5% of every sale to Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit dedicated to helping free the 40,000 non-violent cannabis offenders from the American prison system. I wanted to create a company that could provide a great product that tasted amazing, was more effective than the dispensary gummy, and costs a lot less, all at the same time helping give back to the cannabis prisoners,” says Boyce.

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Cannabis Legalization Could Make New Strides in 2023

The effort to reform the nation’s cannabis laws made new strides in 2022 with the passage of recreational marijuana legalization ballot measures in Maryland and Missouri in the November midterm elections. Success was not universal, however, as similar propositions on the ballot in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota failed to gain the approval of voters. 

Looking at 2023, new milestones have already been achieved this year, with Connecticut launching regulated retail sales of adult-use cannabis on January 10, a move that was preceded by the expungement of nearly 43,000 marijuana-related convictions in the state at the dawn of the new year. And as we head further into 2023, several states across the country are likely to make new ground in the struggle to end cannabis prohibition.

A New Focus

Brian Vicente, a founding partner at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm, Vicente Sederberg LLP, says that despite spending millions of dollars on lobbying federal lawmakers in 2022, the efforts of cannabis activists were unable to result in the passage of any meaningful marijuana policy reform at the next level. With the change in the political climate in Washington, D.C., efforts this year will take a new focus.

“With Republicans taking over the House, any federal reform in the two years seems exceedingly unlikely. Fortunately, movement leaders have begun coalescing around a strategy to cut back on federal lobbying and instead push resources toward state-level reform,” Vicente said in an email. “These efforts are aiming to flip as many as 10 states to adult-use in just three years, which would not only open new markets for consumers, but also create intense pressure on Congress to pass legislation aligning federal law with the thirty-odd states where cannabis is legal for adults.”

As the new year begins, more than a half-dozen states are likely to consider legislation to reform their marijuana laws, with most activity centering in the South and Midwest regions. Outside those broad areas, Hawaii could be poised to make progress on the issue with a new governor at the helm, Democrat Josh Green, who included support for expanding the state’s current legalization of medical marijuana to include adult-use cannabis as part of his campaign for office last year. On January 11, Democratic state Rep. Jeanné Kapela announced her plans to introduce a recreational marijuana legalization bill, saying, “this year, we stand on the precipice of history.”

“We now have a roadmap for legalizing recreational cannabis in our islands,” Kapela said in a statement quoted by Marijuana Moment. “Legalizing cannabis is not just a matter of money, it is a matter of moralities.”

Snowden Stieber, a regulatory analyst with cannabis compliance technology firm Simplifya, notes that the bill has some hurdles to clear before it can get to Green’s desk, however.

“The Hawaii Senate President, Ron Kouchi, has already come out with statements expressing skepticism on any fast movement for cannabis legalization, and many elected officials are still waiting on the upcoming report from the Dual Use of Cannabis Task Force to guide their votes in the new year,” he said in an email. “While it is of course possible that the task force recommends full legalization, prior experience in other states would suggest that legislators will take their time with any report’s findings and that a sudden move toward legalization is unlikely.”

The South

Vicente believes three states in the South—Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina—could pass legislation to legalize medical marijuana this year. With the nearby states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida already demonstrating that a regulated marijuana industry can provide jobs and tax revenue, other states in the region are likely not far behind.

South Carolina, where Rep. Nancy Mace has become one of the few Republicans in Congress advocating for cannabis policy reform at the national level, is one of the few remaining states that still hasn’t legalized marijuana in any form. But reform is popular with the state’s residents, with a Winthrop University poll conducted before last year’s midterm elections showing that more than 75% of voters support the legalization of medical cannabis. This year, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have pre-filed separate medical marijuana legalization bills for the 2023 legislative session. But Simplifya regulatory analyst Justin Bedford isn’t optimistic about the fate of the legislation.

“Though these may seem like promising developments, history suggests that South Carolina still has a long way to go before any form of commercial legalization occurs,” he wrote in an email. “All 14 cannabis-related bills that were deliberated during the 2022 legislative session failed to pass, with most dying in the early stages of development. Nothing has changed in the state’s sociopolitical environment that would suggest anything will be different this year.”

In North Carolina, the state Senate passed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in June 2022, but the House of Representatives declined to take up the legislation. Brian Fitzpatrick, chairman and CEO of cannabis software developer Qredible Inc, notes that public support for medical marijuana legalization is strong, and if a bill makes it to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, he’s likely to sign it into law.

“A poll carried out in January 2021 by Elon University found that 73% of North Carolinians supported medical cannabis,” Fitzpatrick said in an email. “A subsequent poll in May 2022 showed that support had increased to 82% across bipartisan lines. I believe that the governor is aware of this and will fully support the legalization of a medical cannabis bill in 2023.”

In Kentucky, where an executive order from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear decriminalizing medical marijuana went into effect on New Year’s Day, a bill to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis was unveiled by lawmakers on January 7. The measure, Senate Bill 51, would legalize and regulate the “possession, cultivation, production, processing, packaging, transportation, testing, marketing, sale and use of medical cannabis and adult-use cannabis,” according to a report from the online resource Business Insurance. With Kentucky being one of the nation’s largest hemp producers, industry insiders believe the legislation has a good chance of success this year.

The Midwest and Surrounding States

Several states in the Midwest could make advancements in cannabis policy reform in 2023. In Ohio, voters could get the chance to vote on a cannabis legalization measure championed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which was kept off the ballot for the November midterm election after legal challenges. Last week, Secretary of State Frank LaRose reintroduced the proposal, which would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older and levy a 10% tax on commercial cannabis products. If the state legislature doesn’t approve the measure within four months, the coalition can collect signatures to put the proposal before the votes in the fall. Trent Woloveck, chief commercial director of cannabis commerce platform Jushi, believes legalization efforts have an even chance of success in Ohio this year.

“It is very unlikely that the legislature acts on the initiated stature in the next four months, but reasonably likely that the Coalition will be able to gather the additional required signatures for the effort to make the ballot,” he says. “While polling would suggest a ballot initiative legalizing cannabis would pass, the Senate president and other legislators disagree. And, even if voters approved an initiated statute, the legislature would have unrestricted authority to repeal or materially revise legalization.”

Like Hawaii, Pennsylvania has a new governor, Democrat Josh Shapiro, who has expressed support for legalizing recreational marijuana. The issue has been stymied in years past by Republican lawmakers, but a new Democratic majority in the state House of Representatives may help the chances at success.

“While we’ve heard some interest from both sides of the aisle in previous years, conversations about legalization seem to be happening among a much larger group of legislators with increased frequency and specificity,” Woloveck says. “It also sounds like many legislators, including several previously unwilling to engage in any cannabis-related discussions, now acknowledge something has to be done about the illicit market and to stop revenue from flowing to neighboring states where people can buy legal, regulated cannabis for non-medical purposes.”

After legalizing low-potency THC edibles last year, cannabis policy experts say Minnesota could be the most likely state to legalize recreational marijuana in 2023. The state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) is now in charge of both the legislative and executive branches of government, and party leaders including Gov. Tim Walz have said that cannabis legalization will be a priority for 2023. Last Wednesday, a bill sponsored by DFL lawmakers Rep. Zack Stephenson and Sen. Lindsey Port received the approval of a legislative committee, with more hearings on the measure to come.

In Oklahoma, where 10% of adults hold cards to participate in the state’s liberal medical marijuana program, voters will decide on a ballot measure to legalize recreational cannabis in March. If passed, State Question 820 would legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. The measure also contains provisions to expunge past convictions for marijuana-related offenses. Proponents of the measure had hoped it would appear before voters during the November midterm elections, but a delay in certifying petition signatures and legal challenges from opponents prevented its inclusion on the ballot.

Lawmakers in other states including Georgia and Delaware could also take up measures to legalize marijuana this year, although the prospects for success in 2023 seem unlikely given the political climate in those states. But progress in cannabis policy will probably continue if the trend seen over the last decade goes on.

“Since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis, we’ve seen an average of two states per year pass adult-use laws,” Vicente notes. “I predict that 2023 will continue this trend with both Oklahoma and Minnesota looking very likely to legalize.”

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Moneybagg Yo, Gumbo Shut Down Miami for ‘Shot Off’ Launch

In the month of December, brands usually choose to activate during the highly popular Art Basel week in Miami. But the hottest cannabis buzzing in the street right now, Gumbo Brands, and chart-topping hip-hop artist Moneybagg Yo, waited for the dust to settle to celebrate the announcement of their partnership for Bagg’s new Gumbo strain “Shot Off Gumbo.” In a more intimate affair, they shut down the Black-owned restaurant, Playa Miami, for about 50 guests including a few celebrity friends of the brand, Caresha of The City Girls, Amber Rose, N.O.R.E. Moneybagg Yo, label mates, tastemakers, media, and the Founders of the Gumbo Brands Karim Butler and Alexis Major themselves. 

The amount of dripped-out ice in the room for such a small amount of guests was astonishingly mind-boggling. Wall-to-wall bling-off! If you’ve never been to a Gumbo event, let me warn you, they like to do everything big for the culture. The drinks were flowing with a full open bar… definitely shots of 1942 were being passed frivolously around the tables. The food was incredibly amazing. I suggest anyone in the Miami Beach area or planning to visit to make a reservation immediately… highly recommend the mouth-watering lamb chops, calamari bites and the yummy mac & cheese. Thank me later! The vibe and the networking was on one thousand, especially with DJ Wrecky who totally kept the hype going while mixing in a healthy amount of Bagg’s hottest hits all night. By the end of the event no one wanted to leave, they literally had to turn the lights on. Every guest was gifted the signature Gumbo pens and plenty of gas to go around. 

Courtesy of Gumbo

Not only did Gumbo show Moneybagg Yo major love at the announcement dinner, but they also gifted him a 150 carat chain with VS diamonds and a 90 carat VS diamond watch, which is one of 18 in the world, from Pristine jewelers. The Black-owned cannabis and lifestyle brand has been buzzing like crazy in the streets, especially gaining more attention with their collaborations with today’s hottest in entertainment including Meek Mill, Lil Meech, N.O.R.E., Fabolous, and brand sponsor for viral podcast, Drink Champs. 

The “Shot Off Gumbo” strain will be a Hybrid with an earthy sweet pine undertone and euphoric and stoney experience under the Gumbo Brands Umbrella.

Courtesy of Gumbo

Gumbo Brands is a revolutionary new cannabis and lifestyle company, founded by the Black-owned entrepreneurial power-couple, Karim Butler and Alexis Major. Unlike some of the corporate brands that swoop in and try to take advantage of cultural equity in this industry, Gumbo Brands’ major focus is making a difference, building wealth, and sharing knowledge within the Black and Brown communities. Black ownership accounts for only 4.3% of all cannabis businesses. This couple is breaking down that barrier by bringing more people within the community into the cannabis business and giving them the resources and career opportunities to succeed. Gumbo Brands is utilizing creative cultural initiatives in this space to encourage entrepreneurship while also supporting racial justice outcomes and inclusion, including working with the formerly incarcerated to gain licenses, who oftentimes don’t have the financial means or proper information to secure one. 

Gumbo is currently a leading brand in the cannabis space and sold at top dispensaries across the nation, and on its way to global expansion with their products, which includes flower, G-pens, exclusive merch, and lifestyle products. They recently announced a partnership with the global empire Cookies that will give the brand access to 22 states and 15 countries as the cannabis takeover grows within legalized areas of the world. If you’re looking to get your hands on some of this new cannabis strain, be sure to check out

Courtesy of Gumbo

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Florida Issues Medical Cannabis Rules, Opening Doors for New Businesses

State regulators in Florida this week unveiled new rules for its medical marijuana program, a move that could result in a significant increase of the number of licensed businesses there. 

Local news station FOX13 in Tampa reports that the state Department of Health on Monday “set in motion a process to issue up to 22 more medical-marijuana licenses, in a highly anticipated move that could double the size of Florida’s medical-cannabis industry,” while also announcing “an emergency rule that would make it far more expensive for marijuana operators to renew their licenses every two years, increasing the cost from roughly $60,000 to more than $1 million.”

The state agency issued an additional emergency rule that will change the financial commitment of would-be dispensary applicants. According to Florida Politics, “new entities wanting to operate in Florida’s lucrative medical marijuana market will be required to submit a $146,000 non-refundable fee to the state and submit an application that will be competitively reviewed by the state under a new emergency rule issued Monday.”

The outlet reports that the “initial application fee is more than double what licensees initially paid, but reflects the amount the state charged so-called Pigford applicants,” and that although “Gov. Ron DeSantis has been loath to increase operating costs for Florida businesses, he has complained in the past that he didn’t think the state charged enough for lucrative medical marijuana licenses.”

Florida Politics offers more background on what the change means for prospective applicants:

“It’s not only application costs that will increase. The state appears to also be increasing the costs for businesses to stay licensed. Medical marijuana treatment centers currently are required to pay $60,063. In determining the fee, the state will calculate how much money it spent regulating the industry over the previous two fiscal years and subtract from that the amount it collected in application fees. The sum will be divided by the number of medical marijuana treatment centers licensed. 

“It’s not clear how much the state has spent regulating the industry over the last several years, but the Department of Health included a $6.2 million increase for the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) in its most recent budget request to state legislators. About half of that will be spent on hiring an additional 31 staff at its Tallahassee headquarters. It also wants to staff new regional offices. The other half will be spent on outside contractors that administer the seed-to-sale tracking systems; produce medical marijuana identification cards; conduct background screenings; review licenses; and provide outside legal work.”

More than 70% of Sunshine State voters approved an amendment in 2016 that legalized medical cannabis treatment for patients with qualifying conditions. In the six years since, state officials and lawmakers have continued to tweak and amend the new law.

Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Health “released a highly anticipated rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on products doctors can order for medical marijuana patients,” public radio station WUSF reported in August.

“The emergency rule sets a 70-day total supply limit of 24,500 mg of THC for nonsmokable marijuana and establishes dosage caps for different routes of administration such as edibles, inhalation and tinctures,” WUSF reported at the time. “The rule, which was sent to patients and doctors on Friday and went into effect Monday, also carries out a state law that imposed a 2.5-ounce limit on smokable marijuana purchases over a 35-day period. While the rule lays out limits for THC in nonsmokable products, the limit for whole flower and other products that can be smoked are based on weight. They are not based on levels of THC, the euphoria-inducing component in marijuana. And the emergency rule creates a process for doctors to seek an override for patients they believe need to exceed the limits. The rule does not identify a way for patients or doctors to appeal if the requests are denied.”

DeSantis, who won re-election last month, has faced pushback and pressure from advocates who want the state to remove the dosage limits. 

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Florida’s First Cannabis-Friendly Jiu Jitsu Tournament

In recent years, a unique cannabis sub-culture has grown out of the practice of Jiu Jitsu thanks in part to the support of the podcaster Joe Rogan, who is a world-famous advocate of weed and a two-time BJJ black belt holder. “You feel better at Jiu Jitsu when you’re high,” he said in one podcast, saying that cannabis has an “ego-dissolving” effect that makes grapplers more aware of the “possibility of error.”

For Joseph Resendez both cannabis and Jiu Jitsu are so much more, creating the opportunity to overcome a life threatening disability and build a unique career. Inspired by the Las Vegas High Rollerz events, Resendez, a purple belt, has created his own event in Florida, Elevated Grapplers. The inaugural event took place in September 2022 and was a huge success. Resendez is one of those cannabis characters that reveal the heights people can achieve when the odds are stacked against them. In this interview, he talks about Elevated Grapplers, the benefits of mixing cannabis and Jiu Jitsu, and the future of this growing sub-culture.

QUESTION: How did you get into cannabis and Jiu Jitsu?

I got into cannabis when I was about 14 but I grew up around it. I grew up in a city in Michigan, and a lot of family members were users, some were growers. It was always around. I started smoking cannabis between the ages of 14 and 16. I found Jiu Jitsu when I was about 22. At the time, I was working for a local news station and a colleague covered an event at a local gym called Wolf Pack. The first time I went I got beat up by a 14-year-old in about two minutes. That sparked my interest. I’ve been training ever since.

QUESTION: Were you aware of links between cannabis and Jiu Jitsu when you started training, and how would you describe the benefit of cannabis while practicing Jiu Jitsu?

No. When I started training, I continued smoking, as I had been for years but didn’t notice people using cannabis specifically to benefit their training until about a year or so later. I used to dread smoking before training but once I found out that people used it as a way to relax their body and mind, then I started to take notice, and be more conscious of my own use. I found that when I train high my body is more receptive to what the other person is doing. Cannabis enables you to take a step back and consider what’s going on rather than just going into kill mode.

Instead of that, you’re more consciously thinking of the next move, and you can even anticipate it. For me, it puts me in the zone. I’m thinking about the moves but I’m not in any rush to do a move until I know it’s the right one. Anyone who smokes know that you get into your own head, and that’s why people say it gets their creative juices flowing. The same is true of Jiu Jitsu. You really get into the flow of it, and that’s why we talk about flow-rolling, where you’re transitioning from one move to the next move. I describe it as a dance. When I’m teaching, I tell people, we’re about to do a little dance, and then I point out a series of positions. And when you watch people do it, it looks like a dance.

QUESTION: Tell me about your event, Elevated Grapplers? What inspired you, and what was your goal?

It’s one of the first legal cannabis-friendly Jiu Jitsu tournaments in Florida. It took place in September 10th 2022, at the Hemp Mansion, which is a local hemp farm. We had a headline fight, John Combs versus Sebastian Rodriguez, both high level athletes known in the Jiu Jitus community. We had 8 athletes competing in the tournament, and we gave a $1,000 first prize, $500 second prize, $250 third place, and also gave a Puffco Peak to the winner of Submission of the Night, and all of our athletes got Boveda packs. Plus, we had lots of vendors at the event providing food, drinks and deserts.

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On the day, we drew a crowd of about 200 people, and everyone had a really great time. The winner on the day was Steve Koslow, and he also won Submission of the Night. Rather than have a panel of judges adjudicating, we got the audience involved, and got them to vote on and choose the Submission winner. It was really important to me to involve the audience in the event, and make sure they had access to good food. I also wanted people to watch Jiu Jitsu and see the benefit of herbal medicine. I got the inspiration from the Las Vegas event High Rollerz, the organizers Lawrence and Kevin are friends of mine. They’ve created a high-profile event that happens every other month, and I go out there often.

QUESTION: What was the reaction like to Elevated Grapplers?

Well, for a moment I thought it was a no go, and no one was going to show up. I was even worried that I’d have no fighters. None of the fighters signed up until the last day. I had all these vendors organized, venue booked, everything paid for, and not all of the fighters confirmed or any spectators until literally the last day, the day before the event. It was super stressful but then 200 people showed up and it turned out to be a blast. And I couldn’t have done it without the support of the vendors, we had support from Verano, Curaleaf, Boveda, Puffco, High Rollerz, Kushy Pies, Smokey Jones and Willard Hometeam Real Estate.

I also had organizational help from the Hemp Olympics, and on the day, dinner was supplied by Mad Hatters – it was really good food. It was funny because before the event a lot of people were telling me it would never happen, and I was wondering if I was doing the right thing. And afterwards, it was like it was always meant to be, people were just so happy with the results.

QUESTION: Do you think athletes like the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields being open about their cannabis use is important to push this sub-culture forward?

Yes, it is. They play a vital role in bridging the two industries together. Because they’re open about it, it goes a long way to breaking down barriers, and they prove all the naysayers wrong. There are a lot of naysayers. Cannabis wasn’t accepted by the UFC until last year, which makes such a huge difference to competitors. I trained under 8x World Champion Robson Moura and he had the hardest time accepting it. But if I smoke all the time anyway, it has a different effect on me.

Plus, it makes my training so much better to the point that he doesn’t mind it now because he doesn’t see it as having a negative impact on me. They call me Falamasa because when I broke my finger on the mats, I just popped it back into place, and continued to train. These events are also really important because they give both the fighters and the brands more opportunities to come together. That’s what High Rollerz is doing with their events, and what I hope to do with mine.

QUESTION: What is the appeal of Jiu Jitsu?

There’s no better feeling in the world than choking someone out, or having someone try to choke you and you manage to grapple your way out of it. It’s such a rush. If you fought it off, and you survived, it’s one of the best feelings. That’s why people get addicted to it. Plus I have a breathing disability called Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome. Only one thousand people in the world have it, and it basically means my brain doesn’t tell my body to breathe. Yet I smoke, train, run my business, run these events. My attitude is very much to take advantage of every opportunity, and no excuses. I can thank Jiu Jitsu for that attitude.

QUESTION: You’re already planning the next event, yes?

Yes, I’m planning to host it in January or February, and right now, I’m looking for the right location. People are already looking forward to it.

This interview was condensed and edited.

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Wedding Guest Files Lawsuit Over Pot-Infused Reception Food

A woman who attended a Florida wedding earlier this year has filed a lawsuit against the caterer for the event, alleging that the business served food infused with cannabis at the reception. Virginia Ann Taylor-Svoboda, the plaintiff in the legal action, says that she “became immediately ill” after unknowingly eating food that was laced with “poisonous” amounts of marijuana, according to a report from the Miami Herald.

The wedding was held on February 19 in the city of Longwood, Florida, about 15 miles north of Orlando. After several guests reported that they felt high or stoned at the reception following the ceremony, emergency medical personnel and sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene to render aid, eventually taking several guests to a local hospital for treatment. 

A police report filed after the wedding reception revealed that food served at the event was sent to a lab for testing. The reports of the lab analyses showed that lasagna and bread served at the celebration tested positive for THC, the cannabinoid largely responsible for the high commonly associated with consuming marijuana.

Taylor-Svoboda filed suit in Seminole County against Joycelyn Bryant and her company, Joycelyn’s Southern Kitchen, asserting that she had no idea that the food served at the wedding reception contained cannabis. A complaint filed in the suit alleges that Taylor-Svoboda suffered from “marijuana poisoning” after consuming food served by Bryant’s company. The lawsuit, which requests a jury trial for the case, accuses Bryant of negligence and seeks more than $30,000 in damages from the defendant and her business.

“(Bryant) knew, or should have known, that allowing the food served by (Joycelyn’s Southern Kitchen) to be laced with marijuana was reasonably likely to cause injuries and damages to wedding guests,” the lawsuit maintains.

Bride And Caterer Arrested In February

In April, Bryant and the bride, Danya Shea Svoboda, were arrested and charged with violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act, delivery of marijuana and culpable negligence, according to the report from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Affidavits filed in the case allege that Svoboda “agreed to and allowed Joycelyn Montrinice Bryant to lace the food she served … with cannabis unbeknownst to the attendees, many of whom became very ill and required medical attention,” according to a report from CNN.

When deputies from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the reception, several wedding guests were being treated by county fire rescue personnel for “symptoms consistent with that of someone who has used illegal drugs,” according to police records.

When a deputy asked the bride and her new husband, Andrew Svoboda, whether they had requested or consented to the food being infused with cannabis, Andrew “stared at (the deputy) with a blank expression for a few moments before stuttering through a ‘no,’” the affidavits state.

Lab tests showed three wedding guests had urine tests that were positive for cannabis, according to court records filed in the criminal case. Some wedding guests reported that they felt “stoned” and “ill and high,” the affidavits report, while another guest said that he felt “weird, tingly, fidgety, and had an extremely dry mouth” after eating food served at the wedding reception. When a woman asked the caterer if the food contained marijuana, Bryant “giggled and shook her head yes,” the report states.

According to the affidavits, one woman told an investigator that while she was at the hospital, she felt paranoid and “believed her husband … wasn’t telling her the truth about other family members,” adding that she had thought her son-in-law had died and no one was telling her. She said she became loud and unruly in the hospital emergency room and had to be sedated to calm her down.

Defendants Face Food-Tampering Charges

The Tampa-based Sammis Law Firm reported that Florida’s Anti-Tampering Act “covers tampering with food as well as tampering with certain types of drugs, devices, or cosmetics.” Attorneys noted that the statute is not often used, in part because “the statutory language is poorly written and fails to track the federal food anti-tampering law.” The firm also notes that the “terms used in Florida’s Anti-Tampering Statute are extremely vague, leading to constitutional challenges by criminal defense attorneys.”

“Local law enforcement officers will investigate any such allegation and take swift action. These crimes can be charged as a third-degree, second-degree, or first-degree felony depending on how the tampering occurred and the harm caused,” the firm explains. “Many of these crimes are committed by juveniles because of the often impulsive nature of the offense.”

The criminal case against Bryant is ongoing. She is due for her next appearance in court on January 11.

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