ATTORNEY MATTHEW P. SCHULZE OF SWEENEY LAW, P.A. FEATURED IN THE JULY EDITION OF THE BROWARD BAR BARRISTER
Florida Cannabis Legislative Update
Cannabis, or marijuana, contains two major compounds: cannabidiol and tetrahydrocan-nabinol. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is the “non-euphoric” compound extracted from hemp, a form of cannabis, and used for treating pain and relieving inflammation. Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is the “psychoactive” compound which causes marijuana’s “high”.
Just this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed two bills into law that effect the cannabis industry. One bill, SB 1020, could provide a major boost to the CBD industry while the other bill, Florida House Bill 5, will create a major hurdle for the THC industry.
Last year President Trump passed and signed the Farm Bill, which legalized and regulated the production of hemp. SB 1020 now creates a state hemp program. This program will be under the direction of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services which is currently lead by Commissioner Nikki Fried. Fried, a noted CBD and medical marijuana lobbyist, has championed the bill as a huge success for the state’s economy. She asserted that hemp could become one of the leading crops in the state and provide a multi-billion-dollar industry. This wasn’t all good news to companies already selling CBD products in the state, though: Fried has also stated that CBD products al-ready on Florida shelves will have to comply with new testing and labeling requirements as part of the oversight of the new state hemp program, which could lead to many companies having to pull their product until they can achieve compliance.
The other bill signed and passed by Gov. DeSantis could have more legal implications. While House Bill 5 started off as a sales tax referendum bill that was not getting through legislative committees, it was revived on the last day of the session by the tacking on of language addressing citizen petition drives. Specifically, this additional language made it a misdemeanor to pay petition gatherers by the number of signatures they collect, as well as requiring petitions to be turned in to county supervisors within 30 days of being signed or face fines of up to $1,000. Notably, this affects THC and more specifically, advocacy groups of its legalization, because it makes it more difficult for one of the most widely supported ballot referendum petitions to gain more signatures. Regulate Florida, a group petitioning for the regulation of marijuana in a manner similar to that of alcohol, has more than 70,000 signatures which almost makes it viable for judicial re-view, a required step to getting on the ballot. Regulate Florida also pays its employees to obtain signatures on its petitions and, as the most signed THC regulation petition in the state, this bill preventing them from continuing their business practices will present a major impediment. A host of legal arguments can be made against House Bill 5. For one, it made what once was a legal form of employment suddenly illegal, thus terminating those employees’ contracts. A discussion could be had that it constitutes a bill of attainder, or unreasonably interferes with con-tracts. Another notable issue concerns Section 6 of the Florida constitution. This provision states that “every law shall embrace but one subject and matter properly connected therewith, and the subject shall be briefly ex-pressed in the title.” However, House Bill 5 tacked on these petition regulations to a bill that requires municipalities to place local tax initiatives on ballots during general elections. Whatever the legal implications of the bill, the major implication for the future will be that legal marijuana supporters will need to advocate that much harder to bring their ideals to fruition.
See page 22 in https://www.browardbar.org/wp-content/uploads/barrister/2019/july/BarristerJuly2019.pdf