Florida governor Rick Scott has pledged to sign a bill legalizing medical marijuana in the state. This comes after the amendment received a 71 percent vote in favor from Florida citizens in November.
The bill passed the state House last week with a vote of 103-9, followed by the Senate’s vote of 29-6. The amendment now heads to Scott’s desk, where it must be signed by July 3rd. Afterwards, the proposed laws must be enacted by October.
The bill improves upon previously enacted medical marijuana laws that were passed in 2014, laws that had placed much stricter regulations on the use of the treatment.
This new legislature allows qualified patients to use marijuana as a treatment for medical maladies. The patients must be diagnosed with at least one of 10 conditions to legally participate. These conditions include cancer, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, Chrohn’s and HIV/AIDS, among a few others. Terminally ill patients also qualify for the treatment.
The previous medical marijuana laws in place required patients to undergo a 90-day waiting period after obtaining a prescription from their doctors. This no longer applies under the new rules – patients may begin using the treatment right away.
Legislators agreed to put a cap of 25 dispensaries for every medical marijuana treatment center. There are currently seven growers certified by the state, and the bill will allow for 10 more to be added. The state registry currently has 16,614 patients, and for every 100,000 patients added to the registry, four more licenses will be issued. Additionally, no sales tax will be applied to the purchase of medical marijuana.
But Wait… There’s a Catch!
There is one catch to the bill, though – no smoking marijuana. Patients are required to consume marijuana in other forms, primarily edibles. This part of the bill banning smoking has received quite a bit of pushback from legislators, and several have announced their intentions to sue the state over this point.
John Morgan, an Orlando attorney, is one of those planning a lawsuit. “There are four places listed in the amendment that call for smoking,” he said. “I don’t know why they would object to anyone on their death bed wanting to use what they wanted to relieve pain and suffering.”
One of these “places” listed in the amendment that calls for smoking is the statement that smoking in public would be illegal. According to lawmakers and the authors of the bill, this implies that smoking in private would then be legal.
Sen. Jeff Clemens explained that by banning smoking, the bill does not actually uphold the will of the voters because smoking is the most common way for patients to consume marijuana.
However, many supporters are pleased with the progress. Said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, “The Legislature did their jobs today, providing good patient access to hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians. This bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a major step forward for patient access.”
The bill is also pushing research into the health benefits of medical marijuana by donating $750,000 to the Moffitt Cancer Center. Here at the center, a new research group called the Coalition for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education will take the charge in conducting medical marijuana studies.