Thursday, April 27, 2017

Legislators in Florida Need to Come to an Agreement on Medical Marijuana

The Florida legislature has been working since early on in the session to pass medical marijuana legislation in hopes of getting Amendment 2 implemented in the timeframe allotted by the voter passed initiative. Unfortunately the bills introduced in the Senate and House have some extreme differences – and neither one really does much of what voters likely expected out of the medical marijuana law they passed.

House Bill 1397, also nicknamed the “Mel Sembler Medical Marijuana Act” by activist and Florida for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara, recently passed another House Committee hearing with a 14-4 vote. The bill aims to ban smoking, vaping and edibles – leaving only options like salves, sprays, oils and capsules for delivery methods – and it not only leaves the current monopoly on medical marijuana businesses in place, but doesn’t allow for nearly the expansion that would be necessary to keep up with the number of registered patients.

“The fact that there’s no smoking of the product, there’s no edibles, there’s no vaporizing, I think when people passed medical marijuana they believed that would be the delivery,” said state Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana.

On the other hand, Senate Bill 406, while not immensely better, is still an improvement over the House Bill. It would not ban smoking, vaping or edibles – however it would keep the current licensing model for marijuana businesses it would at least allow for additional licenses after a reasonable number of patients have registered with the state.

This bill just passed with an overwhelming majority in a final Senate Committee hearing and like the House bill would normally be headed to the floor for a final vote – but instead lawmakers are hoping to come to an agreement on a single bill that would get a vote in both chambers.

“The goal was to have a reconciliation between the House medical marijuana implementing bill and the Senate medical marijuana implementing bill and present it at this committee,” said the House bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.

It’s unclear right now how the Senate and House intend to combine the two bills into something that lawmakers, activists and patients can all be happy with – but they have said that they are taking all the public comments so far into consideration when working on this compromise. Each committee hearing allowed a small portion of the meeting to hear public comments on the issue – but when the bill both chambers agree on is finally finished there will not be another public review period before lawmakers get their chance to vote on it.

"I don't think that there's anything left to be said that hasn't been said already," Senator Bradley said. "We've heard loud and clear people's concerns about access and about making sure that the product is safe and that there are options to recievie medical marijuana, and we're responding to those concerns.”

It is a bit concerning that there will not be a period of public review and comment for this bill – especially concerning the severity of the restrictions that the House Bill is attempting to put on the medical marijuana program in the state. However, at this point lawmakers have a lot of feedback from activists and patients alike – and it is up to them to hopefully implement this law as close to the way voters expected it to be as possible.


  1. That's fine- all you legislators seeking to avoid the overwhelming will of the people who elected you- 71% of us- be on notice that your jobs are on the line.

    1. You know it! The smoking ban is just unnecessary - but the real problem is the monopoly on the industry that is likely to price a lot of patients out of their medicine. :/