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House, Senate Cannabis Bills Head For Floor With Last Minute Changes

Bokske via Wikimedia Commons

Medical marijuana measures in the House and Senate are heading to the floor.  Lawmakers are making some last minute adjustments ahead of negotiations.

Time is running out on the Florida legislative session, and although it seems clear House and Senate lawmakers want to pass cannabis legislation—it’s not clear exactly what form it will take. 

“The goal was to have a reconciliation between the Senate medical marijuana implementing bill and the House medical marijuana implementing bill and to present that at this committee,” House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues explains, “Unfortunately due to timing we have not gotten there yet.”

That’s a diplomatic way to describe negotiations.  He explains talks between the chambers have been productive, and in recent days both sides have agreed to establish a research program within the Moffitt Cancer Center to help guide future policy makers.

But the bottom line is the Senate and House bills remain far apart, and most of the new changes don’t seem to be aimed at harmonizing the measures. 

Rodrigues says his bill requires face-to-face consultations, “so it has to be done in person.  It can’t be done over the telephone via a telemedicine situation.”

“We also in this PCS prohibit physicians from certifying pregnant patients for the medical use of marijuana,” Rodrigues adds.

Those moves, and others like prohibiting edibles and smoking, and requiring a 90-day doctor patient relationship cater to hard liners in the House.  Rodrigues’ bill also sets aside $10 million to fund a statewide campaign aimed at preventing illicit use. 

Democrats and public speakers fumed, but the measure is heading for the House floor. 

Meanwhile The Senate has approved some last minute changes of its own.  Minority Leader Oscar Braynon wants state regulators to encourage diversity within the medical marijuana industry.

“So it’s asking applicants to submit as part of their licensing a diversity plan and the department of health will weight it accordingly,” Braynon says.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) gave his blessing and one of amendment two’s co-authors thinks it’s a good idea, too.

“It is indisputable fact that marijuana prohibition has had a disproportionately negative impact on minorities—particularly African Americans,” Florida For Care chief Ben Pollara says.

“When legalizing something which was previously illegal,” he goes on, “it has been the inclination of lawmakers to prohibit the participation of those with a criminal record from entering the industry on one level that inclination makes sense, but it’s result has been preventing minority small business people from pursuing opportunities in a nascent growing industry with billions of dollars in annual revenue nationwide.” 

“It is a cruel irony that people of color have been excluded by virtue of violating in many cases the same laws which are now being reformed.”

Like the House bill, Bradley’s measure is now on its way to the floor.  Although Tuesday’s hearing included amendments incorporating some House ideas, Bradley and Rodrigues have a lot of work to do to bring their plans into agreement.

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.