Florida legislators say no to smoking medical marijuana

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Supporters of medical marijuana also are pushing for legislators to use the session to set up guidelines for use of medical marijuana, which voters legalized via a state constitutional amendment past year.

The legislation is a priority for Gov. Rick Scott, who called lawmakers into special session and, after conversations with the Senate president and House speaker, asked them to pass legislation to restore $75 million in Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency, and create the $85 million grant fund managed by the Department of Economic Opportunity and controlled by the governor. It also would expand the eligible ailments beyond the current list of cancer, epilepsy and chronic muscle spasms to include HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.

The closest version of a medical marijuana bill that would have implemented Article X, section 29 of the Florida Constitution, fell victim to the clock last month and died on the House floor in the final hours of the regular session.

Biehl said it would be easier for the Legislature to establish the framework of rules instead of the Department of Health, which went through several rounds of litigation when trying to determine who would be licensed to produce and distribute cannabis. The Senate wants to limit each treatment center to opening 15 locations and the House doesn't want to restrict the number or add sales tax. For every 100,000 patients added to the state registry, there would be four more licenses issued, and all growers could add five more dispensaries. The cap would expire on April 1, 2020. It was estimated recently, after a Canadian company attempted to purchase a controlling stake in the Alachua County medical marijuana treatment center CHT Medical, that a state license could be worth as much as $200 million.

Those issues mean little to the 14,700 patients on the state registry like Michael Bowen, who has epilepsy.

House Bill 5A and Senate Bill 8A, both titled "Medical Use of Marijuana", were filed shortly after Bradley released the statement earlier today. Smoking will not be allowed and doctors would have to tightly follow and document patients' conditions before being able to make a recommendation.

The smoking ban is perhaps the most contentious aspect of the bill and is sure to stir further action.

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"It's one plan, and I hope it's something that can ultimately work, and if somebody has a better plan, I assure you I'm very, very happy to modify what I'm proposing or simply say, 'you have a better plan and I'll support it, '" Simmons told reporters Wednesday. "People are counting on something getting done", said John Morgan, the architect behind getting the amendment on the ballot and passed.

"If he wants to sue us, that it is his prerogative". "I think folks expected when the election happened that this would get done", says Ben Pollara, executive director of medical marijuana advocacy group Florida for Care.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, announced this morning he would file legislation that would "ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters".

The amendment requires new laws to be in place by July 3 and enacted by October.

"We will consider any proposals that emerge", Negron said in Miami. But education officials say it would be an improvement over the state budget passed last month.

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