Future of medical marijuana in Florida uncertain after AG cracks down

By  | 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A shadowy uncertainty has been cast on the state's medical marijuana industry after the U.S. Attorney General rescinded an Obama-era policy that encouraged federal prosecutors to take a hands-off approach to state-run marijuana operations.

Some Florida lawmakers are condemning the move, while advocates and businesses wait to see how the new development plays out.

Reinforcing his historically anti-marijuana platform, U.S. Attorney general Jeff Sessions has opened the door for federal prosecutors to crack down on state-run marijuana operations.

In Florida, where the voter-mandated medical marijuana program is still in its infancy, businesses and investors are scrambling to figure out the implications of the new federal policy.

"People are going, 'Where is this really going? What does this really mean?' You know, 'Why don't we pause for a minute?'" said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.

While the Florida Department of Health says it's reviewing the new policy, state lawmakers were quick to take aim at Sessions via Twitter.

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith tweeted, "Trump's DOJ is prepping to bring us back to the dark ages on weed cuz 'good people don't smoke marijuana' according to the dinosaur serving as AG."

Senator Rob Bradley was the author of Florida's medical marijuana law. In a tweet, he defended Florida's policy saying, "If federal authorities are now scrutinizing states, Florida will be the model."

Advocates say Sessions' move is putting pressure on Washington to clear up the question once and for all: do states have the right to legalize marijuana?

"Sessions has called the question. Right? What does the country want to do?" asked Sharkey.

In another tweet, Senator Bradley called for Congress to, "fix the pot laws" and strip marijuana from its schedule one drug classification.

We reached out to Florida's northern district U.S. Attorney to ask how he plans to deal with the state's medical marijuana program. While we didn't receive a response, we were told the office will have something to say next week.

Sessions' memo comes as the second recent blow to the state's medical marijuana industry. Florida's first green bank, which did business with many of the state's growers, has begun dropping its medical marijuana clients.