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Medical Marijuana Proposal Rolled and Passed In The Senate

Bea Kallos
MTI via AP

In hopes of meeting Governor Ron Desantis’s March 15th deadline to repeal a ban on smoking medical marijuana, lawmakers in the senate have sent their bill to the Florida House. Bu not without making a few changes first. 

Broward County Democratic Senator Gary Farmer says when 72% of voters passed the 2016 amendment legalizing medical marijuana, they wanted smoking to be allowed. To make sure there were no doubters on the Senate floor Thursday, he read an excerpt from the 2016 ballot proposal.

"Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place. Clearly that language implies that smoking of marijuana in a private place shall be allowed," said Farmer.

How patients will get the smokable marijuana is still to be decided.

St. Pete Republican Senator Jeff Brandes is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill. While the House bill requires patients to buy pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, the Senate version allows patients to have the full flower. But the bill has limits to how much can be prescribed. On the floor senators approved an amendment for patients suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease also known as ALS, Brandes explains.

“It allows a physician to apply to the [Department of Health] for an exception to the 2.5-ounce purchase limit and the 4-ounce possession limit for qualifying patients. Some patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease and other disease may need more and we need to create a pathway for them outside this current pathway. So that’s what this provision allows,” said Brandes.

Senators tried to make a few other changes to Thursday. Farmer attempted to add on 3 late filed amendments.

"Anything we can do to alleviate the reliance on opioid medication I think we all would agree is good policy. and so what this amendment would do is provide free medical marijuana access cards to our veterans,
 said Farmer. 

Another Farmer amendment addresses the workplace.

"And so what this amendment would do is limit an employer’s ability to terminate an employee who test positive for medical marijuana in a drug test who is a licensed card holder,” said Farmer.

But the amendment would allow employers to fire an employee who used the drug on the job. Farmer’s third proposed amendment would fix a problem he says he found through research.

“I was shocked to learn that some patients who are on transplant list for kidney or some other organs are being dropped from the list simply because they are shown as a licensed card holder under the database," said Farmer.

The amendment would provide discrimination protections against medical marijuana license card holders on a transplant list.

Citing the looming nearer Farmer agreed to withdraw his amendments, but he said he expects to file a bill addressing all the licensure issues in the future.

Meanwhile another senator had a change he’d like to see as well but for a different part of the medical marijuana system.

“There’s a need for serious discussion not only on the compliance, but there is a need for discussion of the MMTC licensing procedure as a whole. Vertical integration is simply not working for Floridians, and it’s certainly not working for my community,” said Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale).

He says blacks are the most discriminated against when applying for licenses and says that’s a reflection of how they are treated when it comes to possession of marijuana. In Florida blacks are four times more likely to be charged for cannabis possession. He says those numbers county by count y are even worse.

“According to the Tampa bay times in Pinellas and Hillsborough African Americans are 6 times more likely to be arrested, Gainesville Sun cited by the ACLU found that 6.6 times more likely, Additionally, Sarasota county has the largest disparity in the state where African Americans are 10 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession,” said Thurston.

Governor DeSantis is also pushing for the vertical integration system to be broken up before the end of session. He calls it a cartel.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.