Florida lawmakers call for DOH officials' paycheck suspension over medical marijuana

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Florida lawmakers want to hold top Department of Health officials' paychecks until they fully implement the voter-approved medical marijuana amendment.

The Department has missed multiple deadlines and has failed to keep up with a backlog of applicants.

More than 20,000 patients qualified to receive medical marijuana have yet to be issued ID cards. Lawmakers say until the Department of Health clears the backlog, top brass won’t get paid.

Representative Jason Brodeur says, “The Legislature has done everything in their power to get them access to this and it’s the agency who’s supposed to implement it that’s been dragging their feet.”

The proposal would hold $1.9 million in salaries and benefits in next year’s budget.

Brodeur added, “I think it will get their attention that this is the law.”

The Senate may do the same.

Senator Rob Bradley said, “It’s certainly something we should consider along with other measures to make sure that DOH does the job.”

Along with clearing the backlog, the department would also have to issue five new grower's licenses to get the funds back.

The Department of Health cited one particular lawsuit for delaying the issuance of new grower's licenses, but that lawsuit was settled a month ago.

The department says a court-ordered injunction is preventing them from issuing grower's licenses, however, it only applies to one license.

Advocates say the department is still preventing other companies from applying for licenses that should have been issued in October.

Jeff Sharkey of the Medical Marijuana Business Association said, “Here we are four months later and there’s no clear indication of when that’s going to happen.”

The department also disputes, via email, the existence of a backlog saying, “At any given time, there are 3,500 or so applications in processing. We would not characterize that as a backlog.”

The DOH is being called before a legislative committee next week. Lawmakers hope the department will have answers by then.

The Florida Cannabis Action Network says it rejects lawmakers' decision to point the finger at the Department of Health. The organization says unrealistic deadlines set in the law set the department up for failure.