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Health News Florida

Marijuana And Needle Exchange Proposals Headed For House Floor

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar)
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar)
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar)
Credit Florida Channel
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar)

The House Health and Human services committee sent two measures to the floor that would’ve been unthinkable just a few years ago.  The full House will now consider a needle exchange pilot program and a new medical marijuana proposal.

The House’s main healthcare panel ran something of a legislative marathon Wednesday.  Committee Chair Rep. JasonBrodeur(R-Sanford) Republican squeezed twenty different bills into a three hour meeting.  

One of the issues taking center stage was a medical marijuana measure Frankensteining together two different provisions.  According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), the move is entirely within House rules.  But Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) doesn’t like the monstrosity.

“If we’re going to look at expanding the Right To Try to other quote drugs out there, why don’t we open it up to meth?  To cocaine?  To heroin?” Harrell asks.  “So I have a real problem with putting these two bills together.”

The first part of the new measure is the one Harrell opposes—granting terminal patients access to full-potency medical marijuana.

“The proposed substitute before the committee removes the barrier between dying people—truly dying people—and well-tested, well-regulated, properly labeled, physician ordered medical cannabis,” Gaetz says.

Gaetz explains the second part makes a number of alterations to Florida’s existing medical cannabis architecture.

“Stronger testing protocols, 24 hour security, limited retail hours, more rigorous inspections, patient ID cards, express local control, seed to sale tracking, reliable labeling as well,” he lists off.

In addition, the bill lays out a plan for additional licenses.  Once there are 250,000 qualified patients, the Department of Health will award three more.  But they’ll do it differently. 

“I’ve gotten feedback that 30 years ago there may have been predatory lending practices which necessarily disadvantage African Americans who might otherwise be interested in this venture,” Gaetz says.  “So we take the position in this bill that for any future licensures that become necessary as a result of demand we will eliminate the thirty year nurseryman requirement on a going forward basis.”

Meanwhile, South Florida Democrats have spent years lobbying for a needle exchange pilot program in Miami Dade County.  Despite finding a receptive audience in the Senate, the measure has languished in the House. 

“The bill authorizes the University of Miami, and its affiliates to establish a needle and syringe exchange pilot program in Miami Dade County to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other blood borne diseases spread by intravenous drug users, their sexual partners and offspring,” Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Sunrise) says.

But now that proposal moves to the House floor.  The companion bill in the Senate is on the floor as well.

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