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New Medical Marijuana Provision Moves Forward In House And Senate

Terminally ill patients may soon have access to medical marijuana.
Scott Beale via Flickr

Changes to the state’s medical marijuana policy are taking shape in Florida’s Capitol.  A proposal granting terminal patients access to the drug is moving through the Legislature.

Last year Sarasota Rep. Ray Pilon (R-Sarasota) passed the Right To Try Act, allowing terminal patients to use drugs that have concluded the first phase of FDA testing. 

“Unfortunately, that is not available for cannabis because the federal government continues to errantly schedule cannabis as a schedule one narcotic,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) says, “so we couldn’t get the research done that would allow us to be able to exercise the good provisions of Representative Pilon’s bill.”

Gaetz is partnering with Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Sunrise) and Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) to bring marijuana within the scope of Right To Try.  Under the proposal, patients would need two doctors agreeing the patient has only a year to live in order to get the drug.  The bill grants access to whatever level of THC the doctor sees fit.  

But Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) says the measure distorts the underlying intent of Right To Try.

“We wanted to allow people who are in the very end stages of their life to be able to have—avail themselves of the most current research and the potential for life saving medication,” Harrell says.  “Medical marijuana is not a lifesaving medication.”

Despite objections, the House panel approved the measure along with an amendment expanding the list of growers from five to twenty. 

Meanwhile in the Senate, Bradley was preaching to the choir.  He worked with Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) two years ago to pass Florida’s first medical marijuana legislation.  Bean chairs the Senate Health Policy Committee that took up Bradley’s bill Tuesday.

“If you’re asking me if I’m acceptable—or amenable—to putting the band back together, the original band that launched, then absolutely,” Bean says.  “We have unfinished business to go forward.”

That unfinished business—the compassionate use, or low-THC, marijuana legislation of 2013—is front of mind for Gaetz and Bradley.  Despite years of legal wrangling, the Department of Health has yet to decide on the five nurseries that will be charged with cultivating the plants.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.