Earlier this year, Florida legislators debated a bill that would expand the state's medical marijuana program, providing a wider range of cannabis treatments to a larger number of patients. Although most lawmakers supported the bill in some form, the two chambers of the Florida legislature were unable to agree on the details of the bill before the legislative session ran out.
Governor Rick Scott has called the Legislature back for a three-day session to rewrite portions of the state budget. The governor's instructions did not mention passing the medical marijuana bill, but lawmakers intend to add the bill to their agenda. “This is an issue we believe must be addressed,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran wrote in a memo to the House.
“This is one of the most important things that we need to accomplish this year,” Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, said. “This is what our constituents expect."
But before the initiative can be added to the agenda, legislators need to come to an agreement about the details of the bill, which they failed to do during the previous legislative session. The main point of contention is whether or not to limit the total number of dispensaries each license holder would be allowed to open. The House version of the bill proposed a limit of 100 dispensaries, but the Senate bill would have limited this to 15 per grower.
“In order to have an agreement that both sides can support, there would have to be an effort to find a principled middle ground, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Senate President Joe Negron said.
“I think folks expected when the election happened that this would get done,” Ben Pollara, executive director of medical marijuana advocacy group Florida for Care. “We voted twice and we’ve gone through an entire legislative session, and now they’re coming back for a special session that possibly does not include medical marijuana. The average person is pulling their hair out about this.”