Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2016
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2016 The Palm Beach Post
Author: John Kennedy


TALLAHASSEE - A measure allowing terminally ill patients to use 
fullstrength marijuana in the last year of their lives is now before 
Gov. Rick Scott.

Following emotional testimony Monday, the state Senate approved the 
legislation (CS/HB 307) on a 28-11 vote. It cleared the House 99-16 last week.

Scott, though, has been described as "iffy" on the measure by 
lawmakers close to the issue.

The bill would allow marijuana to be included as an experimental drug 
under a state law which allows doctors to order not fully approved 
medication for patients expected to die within a year.

Senate sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the bill grows out 
of frustration with the so-called Charlotte's Web legislation 
approved two years ago by lawmakers.

That effort was supposed to get a non-euphoric, marijuana oil in the 
hands of cancer patients and youngsters suffering from severe 
seizures as early as January 2015.

But regulatory and legal challenges continue to keep the product off 
the market.

"Two years later, not one child in the state of Florida has received 
help from that law we passed in 2014," Bradley told the Senate. "And 
that makes me angry and it makes me embarrassed. And it's time to end it."

The legislation maintains the five nurseries selected by the state 
Health Department to grow, process and distribute the oil low in 
tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC - the compound which gives marijuana its 
psychoactive quality.

But it also now gives them authority to grow full-strength pot for medical use.

Some opponents condemned the legislation as doing nothing to remedy 
the problem with accessing the low-THC oil - while kicking the door 
open to medical marijuana throughout the state.

Instead, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Bradley's bill 
only furthers what he derided as a "state-sanctioned drug cartel."

The measure also would allow for three new dispensing organizations 
once medical marijuana treatment is ordered for at least 250,000 
Florida patients.

Still, none of the 23 states that allow medical marijuana has reached 
the 250,000 threshold, which Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, said made 
the provision "useless."

Clemens, who for several years has supported broader efforts to make 
medical marijuana legal in Florida, said the legislation created in 
2014 was "designed for profit, not to help patients."

A medical marijuana constitutional amendment is expected to be back 
before voters in November. A similar proposal two years ago fell just 
short of winning voter approval, although this year's higher turnout 
for the presidential contest is widely seen as helping the proposal 
clear the needed level of 60 percent support.

"Unfortunately, because of the persistent ineptitude of the state 
Legislature, there are presently zero eligible medical marijuana 
patients in the state," said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for the 
United for Care ballot measure.

"The bill's passage today is merely more lipstick on the pig that is 
Tallahassee's failed 'medical marijuana' law," he added.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who backed the Charlotte's Web 
legislation two years ago said he was in favor of Bradley's revision. 
And he scoffed at a claim by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, that low-THC 
marijuana would be available in anywhere from 90 days to 120 days.

"That's exactly what we were told two years ago," Gaetz said. "But 
then ... money and greed imposed themselves and we've been hung up 
for two years in a kind of swamp land of litigation."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom