Florida residents have been waiting all year for progress to be made towards implementing the medical marijuana program that was voted on last November. 71 percent of Florida voters chose to expand the highly restrictive medical marijuana program that existed in the state since 2014. That program only allowed low strength marijuana to be prescribed to patients with cancer, epilepsy and muscle spasms. The new bill allows all marijuana strains to be available and expands to include more conditions including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, ALS and more.
A Rift Between the House and the Senate
Unfortunately, the bill has been stifled by a lack of agreement between the House and the Senate late in the session. The Senate wants to limit each treatment center to opening 15 locations and the House doesn’t want to restrict the number or add sales tax. Many are claiming that the current rules being proposed are still too restrictive. Smoking will not be allowed and doctors would have to tightly follow and document patients’ conditions before being able to make a recommendation.
Resistance from Lawmakers
Legislature have been called in for a 3 day session where the state budget will be reviewed. Medical marijuana is not currently on the schedule for discussion although many will be angry if the issues aren’t resolved and progress resumed. If lawmakers aren’t able to co-create an effective plan, it will fall to the Department of Health to create the rules and regulations. This is not the happiest scenario as the Department also went through many rounds of disagreements and their proposed rules have been even more restrictive, requiring patients to wait 90 days from when they are given a doctor’s recommendation before being able to acquire their medical marijuana.
Constituents are expecting the disagreements over the issues to be resolved and there is some awareness and pressure regarding the need to add medical marijuana to the 3 day session. “I think folks expected when the election happened that this would get done,” says Ben Pollara, executive director of medical marijuana advocacy group Florida for Care. “We voted twice and we’ve gone through an entire legislative session, and now they’re coming back for a special session that possibly does not include medical marijuana. The average person is pulling their hair out about this.”
Marijuana Research Vetoed by Florida Governor
On Monday Governor Rick Scott vetoed funding that would have gone towards medical marijuana research. The work could have gone to officially proving the medicinal value of marijuana and therefore helping to get marijuana rescheduled from its current classification and a Schedule I drug, the highest risk category for substances that have no medical purpose. $1 million has been withdrawn from the Moffitt Cancer Center and $2 million has been taken from the University of Florida. The governor’s reasoning for this is that both places have enough money to fund their own research. It is unclear whether or not this is true and whether research will be able continue now.
Either way, Florida residents are awaiting any kind of forward momentum so we will see in the next few days if this is able to happen.