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Florida: Don’t Gut Amendment 2

Update: Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services passed SB 406 on April 18.

Update: Members of the House Appropriations Committee passed HB 1397 on April 18.

Update: HB 1397 is on the agenda for the Appropriations Committee on 4/18/17 9:00 am, Webster Hall.

Update: SB 406 is on the agenda for the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services on 4/18/17 4:00 pm, 401 Senate Office Building.

Update: Members of the Florida Senate Committee on Criminal Justice are scheduled to hear SB 1662 on April 17.

On November 8th, more than 71 percent of Florida voters decided in favor of the constitutional amendment, Amendment 2, to allow for the licensed production, use, and dispensing of medical cannabis to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. However, state politicians are contemplating legislative efforts to amend the law in a manner that violates both its spirit and intent.

For example, House Bill 1397 creates numerous unnecessary barriers for patients. It does not allow for edibles cannabis preparations and it outlaws the smoking of herbal cannabis. Vaporization is permitted but only for those who are diagnosed with a terminal illness. Rather, it mandates patients to use pills, tinctures, patches or suppositories — formulations that are arguably less effective than herbal cannabis. Physicians are also unduly restricted under this measure, as they can not recommend a patients’ medical use of cannabis for longer than a 45-day period, and it mandates a 90-day waiting period prior to issuing recommendations, even for terminal patients.

House Bill 1397 also keeps in place existing caps on the number of state-licensed growers and dispensers. These caps are arbitrary and will not enable providers to keep up with increasing demand.

A preferable legislative effort is Senate Bill 406. Unlike the dueling House measure, this proposal permits patients to access edible and herbal forms of cannabis, allows for patients to vaporize their medicine, allows out-of-state patients with valid medical cards to obtain medical marijuana, and does not exclude chronic pain patients from being eligible to obtain cannabis. It eliminates the 90-day waiting period for recommending physicians and also extends the time-table of doctors’ recommendations from 45 to 90 days. However, the Senate measure — like the House measure — initially caps the number of available providers and dispensers.

Although neither of these bills truly satisfies the true intent of Amendment 2, Florida NORML contends that Senate Bill 406 is preferable to the House bill. With amendments to both bills expected, we urge Floridians to support the Senate implementation bill and to continue to advocate for further amendments to expand patients’ access.

NORML of Florida, Central Florida NORML, Tallahassee NORML, NORML of Miami and Regulate Florida will be in Tallahassee April 18th and 19th to lobby for sensible implementation of Amendment 2.  House and Senate hearings regarding both bills are scheduled for April 18 and public testimony will be permitted.

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