With a 31-7 vote, the Florida Senate approved a bill to expand the state's medical marijuana program on Thursday. The bill already passed the House on Tuesday, but must return to that chamber for approval , as the Senate made changes to the bill. Today, however, is the final day that any non-budget legislation can be passed in this year's session.
Although some legislators feel that the bill in its current form is not perfect, they still hope to pass it so that there is a framework in place for the constantly expanding industry. “Everyone is running around scared of the decisions we are going to make because of the money on the line. This doesn’t end tomorrow,” state Senator Rob Bradley, a Republican sponsor of the bill. “We will be dealing with this every session as this product and patients evolve.”
The bill, HB 1397, would allow anyone suffering from chronic pain related to one of 10 qualifying conditions to be prescribed either low-THC cannabis or full-strength medical marijuana. Doctors would be allowed to give patients an order for three 70-day supplies that patients could collect from a licensed MMJ treatment center. In addition to the currently allowed oils and sprays, the bill would allow sales of edibles and vaping products, but smoking pot would still prohibited.
HB 1397 would also add 10 more medical marijuana treatment centers by July 1st of next year. The Senate version of the bill would limit the total number of retail dispensaries to five, but the House version did not have any such limitation.
“It is a fair and reasonable compromise,” Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, said of the bill. “A lot of stuff in there I don’t like but that is stuff that can wait to get fixed until next year’s session. We have to get something done. The clock is ticking.”