Pubdate: Thu, 07 May 2015
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2015 The Palm Beach Post


During the just-ended session, Florida legislators had an opportunity 
to add some legal and regulatory sanity to the medical marijuana 
movement. But they blew it - again.

Rather than tweak last year's law so that thousands of Floridians 
living with debilitating illnesses could have access to limited-use 
low-THC cannabis oil (CS/ SB 7066), for example, legislators fumbled, 
stumbled and then balked.

It is unlikely to come up during an expected special session in June 
because legislators need to deal with health care funding and passing 
a state budget. "It's probably not going to happen," Senate President 
Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, declared.

Which brings us back to the place no one wanted to be: supporters of 
medical marijuana legalization making good on their threat to bring 
back a proposed constitutional amendment in 2016. That ballot 
initiative, by the way, narrowly failed in 2014. To be sure, passing 
a bill on the issue this session was a bit of long shot to begin 
with. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, showed no 
interest in taking up the issue again after grudgingly passing the 
so-called Charlotte's Web bill in 2014. There is real fear among 
House members that legalizing medical pot opens the door to 
recreational use. Further, there is legitimate concern among parents 
that smoking marijuana - particularly the "high" THC-level strains 
grown today - presents a danger to children. Indeed, studies have 
shown that marijuana use can adversely affect brain development in 
young children.

There are also parents like Holley Moseley, however. The Gulf Breeze 
mom pushed for the Charlotte's Web law on behalf of her daughter, 
RayAnne, who has epilepsy. Moseley has been forced to watch as the 
law, intended to go into effect Jan. 1, instead got bogged down in 
lawsuits over which of some 40 nurseries gets one of five licenses to 
grow the pot.

Her frustration, and the plight of as many as 500,000 Floridians who 
would benefit from some form of medical marijuana containing higher 
amounts of THC, was not lost on all legislators. Rep Greg Steube, 
R-Sarasota, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed bills (HB 
863/SB 528) that would, among other things, allow patients who suffer 
from certain diseases to get pot. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton 
Beach, sought to add medical marijuana to a list of experimental 
drugs that terminally ill patients could use under the so-called 
"Right to Try Act" (HB 269). And CS/SB 7066, sponsored by Sen. Rob 
Bradley, R-Fleming Island, attempted to build off of the 2014 measure 
by increasing the level of THC allowed - making it at least a little 
bit euphoric, which advocates said was needed to care for those 
suffering from Parkinson's disease, AIDS, HIV and multiple sclerosis. 
The bills all died. Into this legislative vacuum steps such advocacy 
groups as United for Care, bolstered by their narrow defeat last fall 
and a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing support among Florida 
voters at 84 percent. Saying his "commitment is as strong as ever" to 
pass a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, Orlando 
attorney John Morgan said, "I was hoping - like many of you - that 
our legislators would wake the hell up, realize that the science is 
there, the will of the people is there, and that a delay not only 
hurts patients - it's going to hurt in the next election."

That Morgan, who spent millions on the 2014 effort that fell 2 points 
short of the 60 percent voter approval needed for ballot initiatives, 
may be able to make good on this threat should have been enough 
motivation for the Legislature.

But as happens too often with this Legislature, ideologies and 
shortsightedness get in the way.

The desired outcome would have been a legislative compromise bringing 
relief to suffering Floridians within a proper regulatory structure; 
one placing requirements on patients, doctors, growers and even retail stores.

What now?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom