Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2016
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Palm Beach Post
Authors: Dara Kam and Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida


Bill Lets Terminal Patients Use Full-Strength Marijuana.

TALLAHASSEE - Nearly two years after passing a law to allow limited 
types of medical marijuana, the Florida House on Thursday approved a 
more far-reaching plan that would let terminally ill patients have 
access to full-strength pot.

The plan (HB 307 and HB 1313) also would revamp the 2014 law, which 
has been bogged down in legal challenges over the selection of 
nurseries to get potentially lucrative contracts. Many House members 
pointed during a debate Thursday to how medical marijuana could help 
suffering patients.

"The focus in our debate and the media has been largely focused on 
who gets to grow it, who gets to make money, who gets to lobby, who 
gets to invest," said Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who 
has been heavily involved on the medical-marijuana issue. "The hell 
with them - who gets to benefit is the patients. That has been 
largely lost in our debate."

But Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said he doesn't think the bill is good policy.

"We're feeding an avalanche that I think will ultimately lead to a 
tremendous amount of substance abuse in this state," Baxley said.

The plan, which passed in a 99-16 vote, would expand a 2015 law known 
as the "Right to Try Act" to include medical marijuana. That law 
allows terminally patients to have access to experimental drugs that 
have not been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug 

The Senate is expected to take up the measure - along with possibly 
dozens of proposed amendments - today.

The legislative debate has been overshadowed by the 2014 law, which 
was supposed to make non-euphoric cannabis available to patients who 
suffer from cancer or chronic seizures, such as children with severe 
forms of epilepsy. The substances were supposed to be available more 
than a year ago but still have not reached patients because of legal 
fights involving nurseries and the Florida Department of Health.

The measure approved Thursday, in part, would likely lead to more 
licenses for nurseries that would be able to grow, process and 
distribute the full-strength and non-euphoric types of pot.

The 2014 law authorized five dispensing organizations to grow, 
process and distribute marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing 
tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. 
Nurseries that have been in business for at least 30 continuous years 
in Florida and grow a minimum of 400,000 plants were eligible to 
apply for one of the five coveted licenses.

In November, health officials selected five applicants from more than 
two-dozen hopefuls seeking the licenses. The selection of the five 
licensees set off another round of legal challenges; hearings in the 
cases are slated from March through August.

The bill approved Thursday includes provisions that would allow each 
of the five applicants selected by health officials to keep their 
licenses and also would allow applicants whose challenges are 
successful to get licenses.

The measure would allow for three new dispensing organizations, once 
doctors have ordered medical marijuana treatments for at least 250,000 patients.
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