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Lawmakers Use Right To Try Act To Get Around Medical Marijuana Obstacles

United For Care
Credit United For Care

Florida lawmakers seem ready to give some terminally ill Floridians access to medical marijuana. But some medical marijuana expansion supporters are already setting their sights on November.

Florida’s medical marijuana system is small, and by some accounts, deeply flawed and broken.

"It's going to be much more broken after the amendment [Amendment Two] passes in November. At the end of the day, we have to come back and do this the right way," said Republican Senator  Jeff Brandes, railing about a program that, two years after its passage, still hasn’t provided qualified children the non-euphoric strain of medical marijuana as promised.

Instead, the program has been mired in lawsuits between the state, and businesses wanting to cultivate the plant. Now Florida lawmakers are trying to expand the state’s fledging marijuana industry by adding more terminal ailments to the list of those that qualify for medical marijuana. But lawmakers like Democratic Senator Jeff Clemens argue that’s not enough.

"There are alternatives to doing what we've done that work. And they've been proven to work across 20 something states across the United States. And we in Florida, at the behest of the House, have chosen to do something different," Clemens said.

More than 30 amendments seeking to expand the list, and some relating to who can grow marijuana, failed. Bill sponsor, Republican Senator Rob Bradley, swatted them off, arguing the bill is a compromise brokered with the House—one that could be put in jeopardy, should amendments be added after the fact:

"This bill will make sure that we finally we deliver on the promise we made in 2014. And that probably is the most important thing the bill does."

But Republican Senator Jack Latvala doesn't buy the idea of a compromise bill.

"We have a right and a responsibility to help make decisions on bills like this. The decisions shouldn't be made between two sponsors, two chairmen, [or] two presiding officers. the decisions on bills that come through here should be made by the bodies, by the majority of the bodies, not bringing us bills and trying to fight off amendments," Latvala argues. "If there's an amendment that makes sense, then we aught d have the opportunity to enact that amendment without any help making our decisions. And I just think that's  a trend that's very disappointing."

Throughout the debate on the so-called Right To Try Act was a common theme: if this is bad, then wait until voters have their say on a far broader constitutional amendment to bring medical marijuana to the state.

The House has already passed its version of the bill. The Senate's measure is set for a final vote next week.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.
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