Back in November, 71 percent of voters in Florida overwhelming approved Amendment 2, a revamped medical marijuana law that aimed to ease the harsh restrictions surrounding the state’s presiding system. Despite massive support from their constituents, state policymakers have fought to ensure these limitations remain in place.
On Tuesday, the House Health Quality Subcommittee approved the measure (HB 1397) in a landslide vote, receiving just one “no” after hours of public testimony. The stripped down medical marijuana proposal has been highly criticized by advocates in the state. The proposal, written by the Republican House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, would place severe limitations on potential cannabis patients.
The House bill would prohibit smoking medical marijuana, ingesting edibles, and would even ban everyone except terminally ill patients from using a vaporizer. Cannabis proponents have rejected the proposal, fearing that these vaguely strict guidelines would leave no viable way for patients to consume their cannabis.
The restrictive measure would also enforce suffocating control over the licensing process. The Department of Health would be required to permit just five licenses once the overall patient population reaches 200,000. After that first benchmark is passed, three licenses would be for every additional 100,000 patients added to the database.
Conversely, the bill floating around the state Senate would help the medical marijuana system flourish more rapidly. That measure would require the Department of Health to issue five new licenses by the end of the year, regardless of the number of patients. Once that registry reaches 500,000, the state would then issue a total of 20 new licenses.
Another criticism directed at Rodrigues' legislation is that it would require patients and doctors to maintain a three-month relationship before medical marijuana could be recommended. Unsurprisingly, the House bill has received support from anti-cannabis organizations like Drug Free America and Save Our Society from Drugs, both of which were openly against Amendment 2.
The staunch Republican policymaker has tried to quell dissent by stating that the House is taking a “measured approach” and that his proposal “is not the final product.” Regardless, critics have argued that the legislation doesn’t represent the views of the voters, and some have denounced the bill for being even stricter than the state's prior medical marijuana laws.
According to Ben Pollara, the campaign manager of the political committee that supported Amendment 2, the House-approved proposal “undermines and contradicts the Constitution, the will of 71 percent of Floridians, and would impose significant, arbitrary barriers to patient access.”
Unfortunately for Floridians, it looks the fight for medical marijuana legalization will continue, as their representatives seem determined to suppress the voter-approved amendment from taking root across the Sunshine State.