Pubdate: Thu, 06 Nov 2014
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2014 The Palm Beach Post
Author: John Lantigua
Page: A1


Amendment's Chief Backer Plans to Bring Cause to Legislature.

The expansion of the use of medical marijuana in Florida came up 
short at the polls Tuesday, but the chief financial backer of the 
campaign says he will take his cause to the Florida Legislature in 
2015 and GOP leaders said Wednesday that they are willing to listen. 
he will use the fact that a clear majority of voters supported the 
amendment to push the Florida Legislature to act.

Morgan says it was the presence of Amendment 2 on the ballot this 
year that forced the Republicans to back the passage of the 
Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, also know as the Charlotte's Web 
law, in this year's session. That measure, scheduled to take effect 
Jan. 1, will allow the use of non-euphoric medical marijuana to treat 
epilepsy, other conditions that cause frequent seizures or muscle 
spasms, and cancer. It was sponsored in the House by Rep. Matt Gaetz, 

Wednesday, Gaetz didn't argue with Morgan's analysis and credited him 
with "sparking debate" on the issue in Florida.

"I think there is a lot of momentum for a more modern cannabis policy 
in Florida," Gaetz said. "We need to analyze how to appropriately 
tailor medical cannabis for vulnerable Floridians."

The Charlotte's Web law allows for the use of only non-euphoric 
marijuana. Marijuana that can cause euphoria is higher in the 
substance called tetrahydrocannabinol - known as THC. Supporters of 
Amendment 2 said many people suffering from a variety of illnesses 
and conditions need marijuana with more THC to relieve their 
suffering. The amendment would have allowed doctors to certify 
patients suffering from cancer, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, Lou 
Gehrig's disease and several other conditions to use that more potent 
strain. Opponents of the amendment, including Republican Party 
leaders, said the amendment contained too many loopholes, which would 
allow for abuse of the law.

Gaetz said Wednesday that he favored at least exploring the possible 
legalization of high-THC marijuana for medicinal reasons.

"We need a robust debate about the use of cannabis high in THC," he said.

GOP Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, who sponsored the Charlotte's 
Web law in the Senate, was more cautious but said the issue 
definitely needs more study by lawmakers.

"John Morgan is absolutely right when he says this issue is not going 
away," he said. "Amendment 2 was too broad, but that doesn't mean 
that the discussion ends."

Bradley said the first order of business for the Legislature is to 
finalize guidelines for carrying out the Charlotte's Web law, a 
process that has been hampered by litigation against some of the 
proposed rules.

"That rule-making process is taking too long," Bradley said. "We need 
to get these substances to the children and adults that need them."

He said the Legislature then needed to hear from experts and 
residents who might be helped by an expanded medicinal use of the drug.

"We need to hear from every-day Floridians, from people who are 
suffering," he said.

He said his own position is that more medical research needs to be 
done on the effects of smokable, high-THC cannabis before he would be 
comfortable considering legalizing its use for medicinal purposes.

"Where we have failed in this society is on the research side," 
Bradley said. He criticized the federal government, which outlaws 
marijuana possession, for not allowing more studies to be done. He 
said he did not know how long that research would take, but believes 
that arriving at some conclusion before the 2016 election would be 

"We need to let this process play out," he said.

But Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said he believes pressure will 
be exerted on the Legislature that could lead GOP lawmakers to act 
sooner rather than later on expanding the use of medical marijuana. 
Where would it come from? He said not only some of the 58 percent of 
Florida voters who said yes to Amendment 2, but possibly from people 
poised to invest in the marijuana industry in Florida. With more than 
20 states having approved medical marijuana and the business 
projected to be a multibillion-dollar industry nationwide within a 
few years, that pressure will grow, he said.

In 2011, Clemens became the first Florida lawmaker to introduce a 
medical marijuana bill. He has presented such a bill every year since 
and says he will do so again this year, making provisions for some of 
the criticisms that Republicans expressed about Amendment 2.

"Lots of my Republican colleagues have told me they support medical 
marijuana, they just didn't support a constitutional amendment to get 
it done," he said. "We are going to get a great chance to see if they 
are telling the truth."

Morgan said he will also begin a petition effort to put a medical 
marijuana amendment back on the ballot in 2016, although he will make 
some changes to answer criticism of this year's measure. Morgan said 
the issue has won the support not only of Democrats, but many 
independents and even Republicans. For that reason he believes that 
the Florida GOP will want to keep it off the 2016 presidential year 
ballot and that makes it more likely lawmakers will deal with it in Tallahassee.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom