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Senate Bill Proposes Less Restrictive Approach to Florida’s Medical Marijuana Regulations

| January 23, 2017

medical pot regulations

Not quite like a pharmacy yet. (Bob Schaffer)

A key senator Thursday released the Legislature’s first attempt at carrying out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, with the proposal calling for a growing number of marijuana licenses and making it easier for doctors to order the treatment for patients.


The bill by Sen. Rob Bradley, who was instrumental in passage of medical-marijuana laws in 2014 and 2016, came days after health officials published proposed regulations to implement the constitutional amendment, which received more than 71 percent approval from voters in November.

Under Bradley’s bill, the state could see another 20 marijuana operators — nearly quadruple the seven current licensed “dispensing organizations” — once the number of patients registered for the treatment reaches 500,000.

Christian Bax, director of the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use, told lawmakers last week he expects that many patients to be registered in a state database by the end of the year.

Bradley’s plan (SB 406) would also do away with a current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them and would expand from 45 days to 90 days the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase. The legislation would also ban edible marijuana products “in a format designed to be attractive to children.”

Ben Pollara, campaign manager of the political committee that backed Amendment 2 in November, called Bradley’s effort “a stark contrast” to the rule proposed Tuesday by the Department of Health.

“It’s a good start toward implementing both the letter and the spirit of the constitutional amendment,” Pollara said in a telephone interview Thursday.

While the health department’s proposed rule appears to overlay requirements now in the Constitution onto current Florida law, Bradley’s legislation makes frequent references to the amendment, Pollara said.

“I appreciate the fact that Sen. Bradley’s bill actually respects that we’re implementing a constitutional amendment here,” he said.

The constitutional amendment allows doctors to order marijuana as a treatment for patients with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Doctors also have the power to order marijuana for “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated, and for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

The rule floated by the health department would leave it up to the state Board of Medicine to decide which patients would qualify for treatment under the unspecified conditions, something Pollara objected to strenuously.

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Bradley’s proposal does not include any language that would restrict doctors’ ability to decide for themselves if patients qualify for marijuana treatment. But his bill does include a definition of “chronic nonmalignant pain,” something not addressed in the amendment, as “pain that is caused by a debilitating medical condition or that originates from a debilitating medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that debilitating medical condition.”

“There is a question about how we handle generalized chronic pain. This clarifies that,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

Under current law, doctors must complete eight hours of training before they can register patients for marijuana treatment. Bradley’s plan would cut the required training from eight to four hours.

Bradley’s bill would also allow the state’s seven dispensing organizations — currently licensed to grow, process and dispense non-euphoric marijuana for patients with epilepsy or cancer, and full-strength marijuana for terminally ill patients — to operate as “medical marijuana treatment centers” defined in the Constitution.

Under current law, health officials must authorize three new marijuana operator licenses — including one license for a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association — once 250,000 patients are registered in the state’s “compassionate use” database.

Bradley’s proposal also would require a member of the black farmers’ association to receive one of the highly sought-after licenses.

Under his plan, health officials would have to grant five more “medical marijuana treatment center” licenses once 250,000 patients are registered in the database; five more when that number reaches 350,000; another five after 400,000 patients are registered; and five more when the number reaches 500,000. His plan also would require five more licenses each time 100,000 more patients are registered after that.

“I don’t think it’s a significant enough expansion of licenses, nor a quick enough one to serve what’s going to be a quickly growing patient base,” Pollara said. “It’s not a perfect piece of legislation, but I think it’s a good start considering it’s the first bill released in either chamber.”

The number of licenses has been a thorny issue for the marijuana industry, but operators who currently have licenses aren’t complaining about the expansion included in Bradley’s bill.

“It appears at first blush he’s found a way to implement the will of the voters while balancing the needs of patient access and protecting patient safety,” Steve Vancore, who represents several licensed medical marijuana operators, said.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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12 Responses for “Senate Bill Proposes Less Restrictive Approach to Florida’s Medical Marijuana Regulations”

  1. Concerned Observer says:

    This cleverly contrived bill opens far too many cascading opportunities for wide spread abuse of marijuana by prescribers, sellers and abusers. “Medical use” is a Trojan horse designed to open the floodgates for those seeking only to profit from an extremely lucrative businesses. Marijuana abuse will grow by an order of magnitude by those using marijuana for whatever, wherever and whenever they wish. This program is only about making money. Too often, marijuana use is purported to be no worse than alcohol by those same groups. Even if that is the case, does our society really need to suffer the ramifications for the widespread abuse of another mind-altering substance under the thinly veiled guise of medical marijuana?

  2. Melissa Blake says:

    Get Legal! Get Help! Get Started!
    Call Liberate Physician Centers at one of our locations:
    Jacksonville- 904-999-HOPE (4673) http://www.liberatejax.com
    West Palm Beach- 561-693-2867 http://www.liberatewpb.com

  3. James Knepp says:

    Anonymous

    Concerned Observer. There are any number of people who will try and maybe succeed in gaming the system, and I appreciate your concern for my well being. But whether or not medical marijuana is a benefit to any person or not is a decision that should be made by that person and that person’s licensed physician. Until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you have no right to impose your moral views on someone else. Oh, I forgot to mention that I was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2014. You can bet I didn’t ask for the diagnosis nor the disease so I could have access to ” … another mind-altering substance under the thinly veiled guise of medical marijuana”.

  4. Dave says:

    Marijuana whenever for whatever we wish, yes I would call that the definition of wellness. Until people can understand the term wellness as it applies to marijuana they will not understand how marijuana works for patients. Wellness of Life for all.

  5. Paul Bunyan says:

    Millions of Florida voters voted YES to expand our medical marijuana program extensively.

    What they’ve done instead is underhanded and not within the spirit of what the people intended or wanted.

    It’s now perfectly clear to all Floridians who desired a clear, and effective medical marijuana program that serves the PEOPLE, and NOT a few rich Florida businessmen.

    Give floridians the right to grow and use their own medical marijuana!! Anything less than allowing every able Floridian the right to grow their own marijuana is unacceptable.

    What if a medical marijuana legal patient can’t afford the high prices?
    What if the patients who need this medicine wants to have their own specific strain of medical marijuana that they have found relives their pain? Floridans desired an open and free market.

    How can we floridians now force our legislature to do their jobs!?!?!?

    Contacting and complaining the media doesn’t help. The media is helping them establish these draconian monopolies.

  6. PCer says:

    To Concerned Observer: Let them smoke weed!!!! It is less harmful than legal alcohol and less addicting than the prescription drugs doctors hand out like candy. Get out of your 1930s Reefer Madness mentality and learn something new.

    Get out of the way and let the majority get what they voted for.

  7. End Prohibition says:

    Quite the contrary. Your statements regarding medical marijuana are nothing more than silly Reefer Madness. Please inform yourself by reviewing this list of domestic and international health organization who support patient access to legal marijuana. http://norml.org/component/zoo/item/quick-reference

    The bill actually does not go far enough and is far too restrictive. Patient demand should be met by free market forces and not some arbitrary patient count set by politicians. Marijuana is a plant which has been used by mankind for millennia, and in contrast to many prescription drugs such as opioids, has never produced one fatality because it is medically impossible to overdose and die on marijuana. Although you may not consume it (which would explain your ignorance), but right now there are millions of Americans who consume black market cannabis for self-medication and recreational purposes. They maintain their marriages, theirs families, friends and jobs. The greatest danger from marijuana is law enforcement finding it in your possession.

    In larger sense, the War on Drugs has been an abject failure which has damaged our society worse than drugs themselves. Prohibition has financed organized crime, led us to incarcerate a higher percentage of our population than any other industrialized country in the world and squandered trillions of dollars from our hard earned taxes. Marijuana should be legalized across the board and the revenue used to subsidize treatment and therapy for REAL drug abuse caused by pharmaceutical companies who peddle HARD drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin.

  8. Matthew says:

    Here are some facts from our federal governments studies: States that have medical/recreational use opiate use down, opiate overdoses down, teen Cannabis use going down every year, tobacco and alcohol use/sales declining drastically. @Concerned Observer, please stop. You have no knowledge of anything you are speaking of. You should concentrate more on the many things that are actually destroying this country. 1,000’s of jobs have been formed in each state and billions are being brought into our country from an American grown plant grown on our soil. You can’t get anymore American than that. At one time it was illegal for farmers in this country not to grow Hemp. You say it’s all about money, eradicating Cannabis/Hemp is all about money. You should really educate yourself because in a time that we are running out of resources on this planet, everyone will soon to come find out that’s Hemp will be a substitute for almost every made product on this Earth. Blessings to everyone.

  9. Justin says:

    The argument of “opens far too many cascading opportunities for wide spread abuse of marijuana by prescribers, sellers and abusers” is obsolete.

    First comes medical then comes recreational. Not denying that the end game will eventually be recreational use. They are two different debates that we WILL have to hash out, but medical marijuana is more important than recreational right now. There are sick people who need this plant ASAP. We can talk about recreational later on.

    The plant isn’t a cure all. In fact it doesn’t cure anything. It helps to treat, and manage symptoms of debilitating conditions that people who are against have never experienced. It treats most conditions better than typical dangerous prescription drugs. Marijuana has been around for thousands of years and has a safety record that has been untouched compared to any other drug you get at the pharmacy.

    As far as recreational use I would much rather be in a bar of relaxed, peaceful stoners than a loud aggressive bar. You will never kill the need for humans to alter their minds. Its in our nature to do so. It allows us to escape our logical side, and embark on a more expressive/creative side. Why do you think artists are so creative?

  10. Coyote says:

    @James Knepp
    @PCer
    @End Prohibition
    @Matthew
    @Justin :
    Thank you folks, you have saved me a lot of typing :)

    @Paul Bunyan :
    While I agree that the proposed program is not as extensive nor comprehensive as it could be, let’s take this one step at a time, and not complain about the gains made. After all, remember how badly the 2014 program regarding the non-euphoric only medication was/is being implemented. Just the fact that this proposal is much much closer to the intent of the the people is a good forward step.

    Now, lets see if it gets anywhere in our lovely legislature, or will the majority of our ‘representatives’ continue to decide what’s best for us, regardless of our confirmed wishes?

  11. Dave says:

    All Marijuana users have a God given right to grow your own Medicine, Don not be controlled by your state and goverment, dp what’s right in your heart

  12. Sherry says:

    Again:

    It’s simply outrageously hypocritical that Republicans who say they want “less government” are imposing that government smack in the middle between a patient and their doctor.

    “Big Pharma”. . . who has created powerfully addicting drugs that have millions “hooked” on pain killers. . . is afraid of loosing their massive profits! They, undoubtedly, are throwing big bucks at our completely corrupt legislature to block “the will of the people” . . . while keeping the people suffering and paying through the nose for the “drugs” that peddled for obscene profits by their industry.

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