The Florida Legislature will vote to decide the fate of an embattled medical marijuana bill during a special session later today. The bill was proposed earlier this year during the regular legislative session, but the two chambers were unable to agree on the details of the bill before the end of the session. This week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called the Legislature back for a three-day session to rewrite portions of the state budget, but lawmakers put the medical marijuana bill back up for consideration.
The bill would add 10 new growing licenses to the current seven, and allow 25 dispensaries for each of these new growers. For every additional 100,000 patients who register for the state MMJ program, four more licenses will be issued, and every grower will be able to add five more dispensaries. The bill allows patients to possess a 70-day supply of marijuana, which can be used in any manner other than smoking it.
The bill comes up for a vote on Friday, the last day of the session. Due to the time constraints of the three-day session, the Senate Health Policy Committee allowed speakers only a few minutes each to argue for or against the bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee denied any public input during its hearing for the same reason.
Some advocates are concerned that in the rush to pass the bill, lawmakers might overlook input from the cannabis community. “They’re doing everything they can to speed up the process and cut out the activists and advocates who represent the patients, caregivers and doctors,” marijuana activist Gary Stein said.
Stein, among others, is also concerned about some last-minute additions to the bill, including a mandate that citrus canning factories be given preferential consideration for two of the ten new licenses. “The idea of bringing in the citrus industry is something I don’t understand,” Stein said. “I can’t wrap my mind around Tropicannabis.”