"Gay men and women love pot. We know that. We have been smoking for years, recreationally and medically.
We know how many of our friends used cannabis to offset the wasting syndrome of AIDS. When we turn out to vote in November, we are going to vote overwhelmingly for Amendment 2.
But here is my message to all of you cannabis consumers. Hang on. Wait. Medical marijuana is not yet legal in Florida. You would not know that by the some of the business scams materializing across the state.
You can help make marijuana legal in Florida by voting for Amendment 2 this November. It needs 60 percent to pass. If approved, the state Department of Health will be charged with establishing rules and regulations governing the lawful distribution and sale of medical marijuana in Florida.
Nevertheless, misrepresentations of fact and misstatements of law are being sold to the public by people trying to make money off the ensuing ‘Green Rush.’ It’s a scammer’s universe. Beware. You are being sold a false bill of goods.
No one can issue you a valid ‘medical marijuana identification card.’ But one company in Jacksonville, Health Law Services, is trying to do just that. It’s worthless, and a ticket to jail. The Florida Bar might want to know about this initiative. Marijuana is still illegal in this state. It will still be illegal if the amendment passes. The law will simply provide for qualified people to use it lawfully.
Any cop can arrest and jail you for possession of even the tiniest amounts of cannabis. While you may assert a defense of medical necessity in court, it will only happen after you have been arrested and prosecuted. It’s up to a jury to determine if your defense is valid, not some lawyer issuing you a phony card.
At one cannabis money seminar in Jacksonville, the company represents that you can sign up for a ‘cannabis treatment center consultation’ for $999, and acquire a ‘grower medical cannabis identification card so you can start growing now.’ Really? Well, guess what? Do so, and you can go to jail tomorrow.
The Department of Health has not yet adopted any rules yet, so clinics seeking to pre-certify you for marijuana cards are premature. It will be up to the DOH to determine what meets the ‘debilitating conditions’ standards the amendment articulates. Anyone ‘pre-certified’ is probably going to run into a rule that says you must have been examined by a physician who himself has to be certified. NONE have been yet.
There is another individual in Jacksonville billing himself as Florida’s only ‘certified cannabis real estate broker.’ I am sure the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be glad to hear about this. No real estate in Florida has yet been designated for where you may open up a cultivation facility.
Before that happens, the state will have to decide where they want to allow marijuana farms to operate, and what the legal restrictions will be. Once they do, local cities and counties will then need to adopt reasonable zoning regulations for retail medical marijuana sales outlets. If you foolishly plunk money down for a legal dispensary today, don’t expect to get a refund tomorrow if the land turns out not to be zoned as such. Caveat Emptor.
Amazingly though, there is a lawyer in Miami taking $25,000 deposits for ‘exclusive franchises’ to operate marijuana. Apparently, he knows where they are going to be even before the Department of Health or state legislature has made a single determination about the venues where businesses may grow or sell medical marijuana. Astounding.
If you want to make a donation so you can use marijuana medicinally, send a check to United for Care, the group funding this noble initiative. They need your help. They need your dollars. They need your vote. And you need to send them your absentee ballot. Let’s make that sixty percent a reality.
The passage of a bill allowing for children with certain debilitating medical conditions to gain access to marijuana sent a shot across the bow. It suggests that if the amendment passes, Florida will adopt stringent and restrictive guidelines for medical marijuana distribution in our state. For example, the new ‘Charlotte’s Web’ law mandates you post a $5 million bond, have access to thousands of acres of land, and been in business continuously for thirty years to apply for a medical marijuana growing facility.
Throughout the state, cannabis-marketing opportunities are understandably being publicized. It makes sense. The many states that have legally provided for dispensaries have seen a new and very profitable growth industry develop. But Florida is known for its scams as well as its sunshine. Don’t let your entrepreneurial dreams go up in smoke by investing your dollars in a business enterprise today that may not be legal tomorrow.
It’s not just that the rules are different here. The rules are not here yet. You can plan, but you sure better not plant. If you do, you won’t be opening a new business. You will be hiring a criminal defense attorney.
Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale is the immediate past chair and president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (NORML), the nation’s longest running cannabis advocacy consumer group. He runs a consulting firm for persons interested in medical marijuana dispensaries. Another version of this article originally appeared as an op-ed in the Sun-Sentinel, a media partner of SFGN. "