More than 71 percent of Florida voters elected to pass Amendment 2 last November, a measure that would expand Florida’s medical marijuana program. The problem now lies in implementing a plan that pleases both the House and Senate who have been in opposition with regards to how to move forward with the bill. As it stands, Floridian patients with cancer, terminal illnesses, chronic seizures, epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms and chronic pain can get access to low THC, non-smokable marijuana. Amendment 2 would open up the medical marijuana program to patients suffering from a vaster range of medical conditions.
The Expansion of Florida Medical Marijuana
Steps were taken on Tuesday to move forward with the implementation of the bill. The Senate and House have been at odds with how the medical marijuana industry should be developed. While the Senate pushed to have more dispensaries, also known as medical marijuana treatment centers, the House did not initially support this idea. This week however, movement was made and the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add 10 new medical marijuana treatment facilities right next to 7 marijuana businesses that grow and dispense marijuana products. The bill also requires health officials to give out 5 more licenses to cater to the growing number of patients that is likely to arise in the state.
The House Aims to Ban Marijuana Smoking
House Bill 1397, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues passed on Tuesday, incorporating aspects of the Senate Bill 406 to make it much closer to a compromise. There are still some critical differences though that will need to be reviewed. The House’s bill lets patients receive a prescription for (3) 70 day supplies of treatment per doctor’s visit while the Senate’s bill allows for the prescriptions to be for 90 day quantities. Another critical difference is that the House bill allows for edibles and vaping products to be permissible but bans smoking. This is a controversial difference that may not be so easily decided upon as the Senate decides on what their stance will be.
An Impassioned Defense of Medical Cannabis
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, talked about how much safer marijuana is than prescription drugs which kill thousands of people every year. No one has ever died from marijuana use. “Would we rather have them use dangerous prescription drugs … or would we prefer that they smoke a bowl and go to sleep and actually wake up the next morning?” asked Smith on the issue. “Who are we to tell legitimate patients that they can’t smoke their cannabis? That is not our business, members. It’s not our business to infringe upon their personal freedoms; it’s not our business to infringe on the sacred patient-doctor relationship.”
The legislative session ends on Friday and lawmakers are expected to have a bill in place by then so that the expanded medical marijuana industry in Florida can progress without further delay. It’s unclear as yet what concessions will be made by the Senate but talks have already begun. Either way, a demand for progress by industry and the public means that one way or the other some decisions will be made this week.