Jeff Brandes files competing medical marijuana bill

Tampa Bay Times

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, on Wednesday proposed new rules for medical marijuana in Florida, putting forward an idea that would compete with legislation already filed by another Senate Republican.

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Brandes’ proposal (SB 614) completely upends the small medical cannabis program already functioning in the state in favor of more competition. His bill would allow businesses to be licensed as growers, distributors or processers who make pills and oils that can be sold to patients.

It would do away with existing caps in state law that allow just seven companies to be in the marijuana business and require them all to grow, process and sell their own products. A competing proposal (SB 406) filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, largely keeps that styem intact but allows additional licenses to be granted when the number of patients grows.

“The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate that Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana,” Brandes said in a statement. “The laws on the books today promote a state-sanctioned cartel system that limits competition, inhibits access, and results in higher prices for patients. This legislation outright repeals Florida’s defective law.”

Some advocates say that the state should open up the market to encourage more diversity of products, low cost and innovation.

However, the companies already licensed say they have the collective capacity to serve hundreds of thousands of patients without having to wait for a new market to start up.

Senate President Joe Negron said Tuesday that both bills would be considered.

“We’re going to have a number of different approaches in the Senate,” he said. “My intention is that those bills will move forward.”

The House still has not put forward its proposal to implement Amendment 2, which expanded medical marijuana access to new patients and was approved by more than 70 percent of voters last November.

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Jeff Brandes bill would legalize delivery drones

Florida Politics

A bill filed Tuesday would allow delivery drones to operate in Florida.

The legislation (SB 460), however, focuses on ground drones, or “personal delivery devices.”

Such a unit is defined as a “motorized device for use primarily on sidewalks and crosswalks at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour, which weighs 50 pounds or less excluding cargo.”

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London-based Starship Technologies makes a six-wheeled model that is beginning to make deliveries in California and Washington, D.C.

“With this legislation, Florida continues to lead in transportation policy,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who filed it.

He long has embraced “disruptive technologies,” such as ridebooking apps, for example.

“This technology could revolutionize home delivery and will usher in new business models,” Brandes said. “This type of innovative technology should be embraced by policymakers, and I am excited to focus Florida on the future.”

His bill also requires drone operators to carry insurance coverage, among other things, and prohibits drones on the state’s shared-use nonmotorized trail network, or SUNtrails.

Some of Brandes’ fellow lawmakers have not always been as receptive to drones.

In 2013, the Legislature limited Florida law enforcement’s use of flying drones, or remotely-controlled aircraft, in the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act.”

That measure was backed by Joe Negron, the Stuart Republican who is now the Senate President.

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