Smokable marijuana only the first step towards affordability

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Some lawmakers believe the entire medical marijuana distribution system needs to be changed.

Patients will be able to smoke their medical marijuana, once the Governor signs the bill and agencies develop and implement rules, likely by July 1.

But State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith says there’s still more work to be done.

“There's sick patients out there right now who have not enrolled in the legal medical cannabis process or program. They are still buying cannabis on the street illegally because the legal way is too expensive,” said Smith.

Part of the cost patients face includes doctors visits every 210 days, plus $75 license renewals every year. Loosening the burden on patients is one possibility, but Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association says the best solution is to create more completion in the marketplace.

“Insurance companies don't offer a copay assistance with the doctor visitation, with the medicine itself,” said Sharkey.

Availability is limited due to a lack of licensed growers; only 14 in the state. By law, they have to control every aspect of the process from seed to sale, but doing away with the vertically integrated system would allow for more businesses to compete.

“If you want to be a retailer, if you want to be a processor, an extractor you can do that with a cultivator,” said Sharkey.

Lawmakers believe some changes will be made to the marijuana distribution system this year, but they also believe it will be a multi-year effort. There is also a Legislative push to make it easier for banks to back medical marijuana companies. Currently the industry is almost completely cash only.