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Health News Florida

Senate Sends Marijuana Measure To The Governor

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Credit Bokske via Wikimedia Commons

The Florida Senate is sending a medical marijuana proposal to the governor.  The reform package grants access to terminal patients and carries a number of changes for the existing regulatory system.

The Senate had a fight Friday. 

“I am going to respectfully ask that you vote against every single amendment today,” Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) said on the floor.  “Including this one.  I consider each of them to be unfriendly.”

It’s a fight leadership was attempting to avoid.  Senate President Andy Gardiner sent Bradley’s medical marijuana legislation back to committee after it got loaded down with amendments on the floor.  But that stop did little to un-ruffle feathers or settle disagreements. 

“Again, we talk about the argument that this bill has been agreed to by the House,” Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) said.  “This is a familiar refrain that we’re seeing over the past few days, but it’s most familiar to me because it’s the same refrain that we had two years ago when we created this system that hasn’t helped anybody for two years.”

Clemens and others have pushed for more growers and greater access for patients, but their lobbying largely fell on deaf ears in the Senate.  Friday they made their policy pitches again, and it wasn’t just Democrats offering changes.

“Every day we have 22 veterans that commit suicide,” Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker) said.  “And you’re telling me—Florida—being one of the most friendly states to our veterans, that we would not pass an amendment that would allow our veterans to have medical marijuana.”

Friday on the floor, senators spent hours working through amendments, and Bradley fended off each attempt.  But the ferment and discontent was just as present Monday.

“Senator Bradley, you know I speak bull and that sounds like a pile,” Evers says.

He’s upset with how the measure doles out additional licenses to grow marijuana.  Under Bradley’s provisions, three new licenses would become available once the state has a quarter million patients.   At least one of those additional licenses would be set aside for African American farmers engaged in a class-action lawsuit about discriminatory lending practices.  Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) says the threshold is too high.

“Of the states that allow for the use of medicinal marijuana,” Thompson says, “none of them have 250,000 patients.”

This isn’t quite right.  It’s true that only about 100,000 California patients are on that state’s registry, but a Marijuana Policy Project estimate puts the population of medical users at about 750,000.  That’s because joining the state registry is voluntary.  Every other state’s medical marijuana patient population falls below 250,000.

Meanwhile, Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) criticizes the bill for leaving out the poor.

“So if we have no estimate of cost, and it’s not covered by insurance, Medicaid recipients nor medicare recipients could pay for it, how can we determine that we’re going to reach the 250,000 person threshold?” Gibson asks.

Monday Bradley gained passage for his bill.  It’s now on its way to the governor.  But it may be a short honeymoon.  Even Bradley acknowledges a more extensive ballot initiative coming up in November could send lawmakers back to the drawing board.

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