When Amendment 2 fell just short of achieving the necessary 60% voter approval this past November, Floridians narrowly missed the opportunity to bring medical marijuana to the state. But the 58% who voted for the measure sent a message that was loud and clear: “A vast majority of Floridians wanted access to medical cannabis”.
Well, it appears politicians have heard that message. Today, a leading state lawmaker (and one from the Republican Party, no less) has introduced legislation that would expand the ability of patients in the state to have access to medical marijuana.
The bill, introduced by Senator Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersberg), would allow patients to receive up to a 30-day supply of cannabis if they obtain proper approval from a physician. The bill contains a specific list of conditions for which medical marijuana may be provided, which includes cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and persistent pain, severe and persistent nausea, persistent seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms. But it also allows the use of cannabis for other ailments if the patient has exhausted other available remedies with no success.
Like Amendment 2, the bill would put the licensing of cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana in the hands of the Department of Health. It also gives local governments a hand in the process by allowing county commissioners the ability to control whether retail marijuana outlets can be located within their limits.
The bill sets up a system where cannabis production centers grow the medical marijuana and then transfer it to retail centers where patients can gain access to it. Retail licenses will require payment of a $10,000 fee and the posting of a $1,000,000 bond, while production licenses will require payment of a $100,000 fee and the posting of a $5,000,000 bond. The production of cannabis will not be permitted at the same location as a retail establishment, but one entity can hold both production and retail licenses.
The bill also establishes a system for caregivers who, if they meet the qualifications, can assist in providing cannabis to a certified patient.
The campaign to get medical marijuana back on the Florida ballot in 2016 is already underway. But, if this latest bill makes it through the state legislature and manages to avoid a veto from Gov. Rick Scott, Florida could see medical marijuana sooner than that.