You can soon buy medical marijuana in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. That is, once their legislatures figure out who is going to be authorized to buy and who will be authorized to sell marijuana to the medically needy.
The Florida Legislature currently is, as of this writing, in the process of deciding if our state will join the long list of states authorizing the sale of cannabis, better known more informally as marijuana, for medical purposes. There also is a statewide petition drive to put the question on the November ballot, which currently is being challenged in court.
Recent polls in our state indicate that approximately 82 percent of registered voters polled favor such sales. Our conservative state legislature may not like the idea but the prospect of multi-multi-millions of dollars in revenue from a “special” sales tax is almost too difficult to pass up.
First, here is an interesting fact. It wasn’t until 1937 that the federal government passed a law stating that the sale of marijuana was illegal. Before 1937 it was legal to sell and to buy. That was only 77 years ago. So, selling and buying really isn’t that big a deal considering that for the first 161 year it apparently was okay with our federal government.
Now, you live in Chicago and you think: “Maybe we should open a shop and sell medical marijuana to those who can get a prescription for the stuff.” Good idea? Perhaps, but the city is considering limiting sales to only 13 approved venders. The anticipated liquid net worth for a prospective vender is $500,000. That’s right — half a million dollars. And your store must be at least 1,000 feet from the nearest school, park or residential area.
Want to be a buyer? First Chicago anticipates they will require the prospective buyer, age 21 or older, to be fingerprinted and cleared with the FBI for a possible criminal background. Pass that? Now pay an annual fee of $150 for a Medical Marijuana Card. Oh, don’t forget you will eventually need a doctor — medical doctor that is — to issue a prescription. I would assume that would come only after a medical exam and appropriate tests to determine that marijuana would improve your condition.
I tried to obtain an interview over the phone with the home office of one of our major drug store chains to learn if they had an interest in the sale of medical marijuana. After all, a drug store is just that, a place to buy prescription drugs. And marijuana would by definition be a legal prescription drug, right? I didn’t get very far. They definitely were not interested in talking to me.
How will medical marijuana be marketed? Comcast already has began airing radio and TV commercials for Marijuana Doctors (a retailer) in New Jersey, Chicago and Massachusetts. In Washington State the state Liquor Control Board is developing a plan that would license state-licensed liquor stores to sell marijuana. Remember this is all subject to the buyer being over 21 and holding a state-issued permit to buy. Liquor stores make a lot of sense. After all they are experienced in checking the identification and dates of birth on their customers.
Keep your eye on our legislature currently in session in Tallahassee. Will we join the 20 states and the District of Columbia in approving the sale of medical marijuana? Where could it be purchased? A liquor store? A check cashing store? The friendly drug store down the street? Or a medical marijuana dispensary opened for that purpose. Could the tax revenue to the state be so large that it could fund many of Florida’s budgetary needs that are currently being neglected or held back due to a lack of funds? Could corporate and sales taxes be reduced? How about education? It is already being partly funded with proceeds from the lottery.
Have an opinion? Share it with me for a followup column. Call me at 786-247-0547 or send email to <Kenneth.Bluh@ColumbusCL.com>.
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