The Orlando City Council approved an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana by a 4-3 vote May 9, the night before the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo was set to begin.
The conference began May 10 at the Gaylord Palms at 6000 W. Osceola Parkway in Orlando, Florida. The expo describes itself as “America’s oldest and largest national cannabis tradeshow” and features more than 3,000 industry executives, experts and investors.
According to Orlando’s new ordinance, law enforcement will not be able to make arrests for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana — about two-thirds of an ounce. They will be able to write citations, $100 for the first offense and $200 for a second offense. A third offense would require a court appearance.
“By freeing up the criminal justice system, we are able to address our real public safety challenges in Orlando … and reinvest into public health programs,” said Korey Wheeler of Organize Now, a group that supported the ordinance, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Before the city council met, a preconference was held at Gaylord Palms and included a day-long crash course on marijuana business for $299. The main conference, which began May 10, cost $799 to attend, and an expo-and-meals-only package cost $399.
Numerous marijuana vendors were on-site to display various products and services. The agenda for the first day of the conference included keynote speakers Chris Walsh, Chuck Underwood and John Morgan.
Walsh is the editorial director of Marijuana Business Daily, a business information resource for the medical marijuana and retail cannabis industry and the host of the conference. Walsh spoke about market projections and industry outlook.
Underwood is the founder of the Generational Imperative consulting firm, which specializes in helping companies understand generational differences in the workplace and marketplace. He spoke about generational engagement strategies for the cannabis industry.
Morgan is listed as a medical marijuana legalization advocate on the conference’s agenda. He’s the founder of Morgan & Morgan, a national law firm based in Orlando. His speech was titled “The Tipping Point: The Time is Now for MMJ Legalization.”
Other add-ons to the conference included:
The conference will conclude May 11. Attendees can attend one of three tracks covering topics such as retail trends, upcoming challenges and brand development or roundtables on topics such as campaign strategy, generational marketing and retail strategy.
Morgan has been a longtime advocate of medical marijuana legalization in Florida. The lawyer led the 2014 ballot initiative to legalize medicinal marijuana in the state, an initiative that received support from 58 percent of Florida voters, just shy of the 60 percent required to pass.
The amendment would have allowed Florida doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical conditions such as:
The measure also included controversial language that would have also allowed physicians to prescribe marijuana for “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
Morgan is leading an effort to put medical marijuana back on the ballot in 2016. His group, United for Care, received enough petitions to do so in January.
“We only lost a battle and not the war,” Morgan told the Orlando Sentinel in January. “So, we’re coming back here in 2016, to finish the battle and win the war.”
The proposed amendment will include improved language which makes it clear that the drug can only be prescribed for debilitating medical conditions and additional provisions requiring parental consent for underage patients.
Medical marijuana is legal in Florida under the “Charlotte’s Web” bill which allows very limited medicinal use of strains of cannabis with high cannabidiol and low THC to treat severe epilepsy and cancer.
The Florida senate also approved a new bill titled Medical Use of Cannabis (HB 307) in March of 2016, which would expand the use of medical marijuana of all strengths for patients who had been diagnosed with terminal medical conditions. It is waiting on approval from Gov. Rick Scott.
Some cities have prepared to resist medicinal marijuana dispensaries from entering their cities.
These cities include:
Meanwhile, other cities have followed national trends in decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Tampa decriminalized the possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana starting April 1. A similar ordinance began in Volusia County on the same day.
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