Washington State weed laws a provocative case study for Florida

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Editor’s note: The following is cross-posted from Politics of Pot.com.

A new Florida law permitting Charlotte’s Web, a low-euphoria a medically-beneficial strain of marijuana, has regulators and businesses figuring out how to make things work in this state of about 20 million.

For regulators, main logistic questions involve criteria for dispensing organizations and delivery methods. And in the first hearings on medical marijuana rules this week, it seems regulators are bracing for far broader laws that may be approved by Florida voters in November. To entrepreneurs, this prospect would mean an opportunity to strike gold — Acapulco Gold, that is. And Purple Haze. And White Rhino. And… You get the point.

But what if the roll-out of Charlotte’s Web doesn’t go down so smoothly? As seen this week in Washington State, even the widest open laws are complicated to bring live. Washington is seeing massive shortages of crop to go around, as only one grower has been approved and able to go live on July 8, opening day for recreational use. Retailers are likely to run out of inventory within hours, and growers see a three to five year period ahead before they can begin to meet demand.

In large part, Washington’s roadblocks have been regulatory in origin — restrictions on would-be growers, screening requirements, and required lab-testing that means long delays to retail.

Washington and Colorado offer a tale of two states in weed regulation — with the latter experiencing a generally smooth implementation of retail sales in January.

For Florida’s part, stringent regulations are likely to result in a story that better resembles Washington — one where the demand is high but access to legal bud is limited. Particularly for those who have been waiting in pain for legal use of Charlotte’s Web, regulators could ‘protect’ patients to the point of limiting access at all — which was certainly not the intent of the law.

Broad agreement about Charlotte’s Web clearly does not mean a simple process for licensing growers, testing content, or defining the roles of health care providers and dispensers. This week’s hearings have shown that much already.

And if November’s ballot measure is approved by voters, these hearings are a small crop test run of a much more challenging and far more public process ahead.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.