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Jim DeBeaugrine: Revenue from medical marijuana for treatment, prevention would be minimal

Jim DeBeaugrine

If nothing else, the intense debate over how to implement legalized medical marijuana in Florida has given many of us a crash course in business economics, government regulation and medical protocols.

We’ve heard hours of discussion on such topics as vertical versus horizontal business structures, free-markets versus exclusivity, and physician discretion versus government prescription.

Missing from this discussion, however, is the collateral damage of the drug trade – addiction, criminal behavior, broken families, unemployment, even death.

Ironically, these collateral effects are the most likely to directly impact the average Floridian. As we’ve recently learned from the prescription opioid crisis, it doesn’t matter that a substance is legal and highly regulated.

Fortunately, the Legislature has a tremendous opportunity to make major progress toward addressing these unwanted side effects. Under current law, marijuana is subject to the state’s sales and use tax. This is, by the way, consistent with most of the states that have legalized medical marijuana. State economists estimate that tax collections will eventually rise to $24 million on an annual basis. This estimate, however, is based on assumed annual sales that are roughly one-quarter what a leading industry expert predicts.

Either way, these funds represent an untapped resource that could be used to boost the state’s substance abuse education, prevention and treatment efforts.

As things stand right now, the House bill (HB 1397) exempts medical marijuana from state tax. The Senate bill (SB 406) retains the sales tax but the funds would go to General Revenue unallocated. As unallocated General Revenue, $24 million is a relatively insignificant amount that will be fought over by the myriad interests that compete each year in the budget process. As a dedicated funding source for prevention and treatment, however, it becomes a significant shot-in-the-arm to help address a growing crisis in our state.

At the Center to Advance Justice, our primary mission is to educate the public on policies and practices that research show to be effective in reducing criminal behavior and the associated costs. As such, we are acutely aware of the connection between substance abuse and criminal activity.

Perhaps even more compelling is the public health crisis we are experiencing with the recent spike in opioid overdose deaths. It is a painful reminder that shutting down a market, as we did with pill mills, does not solve the underlying addictions that drove it.

The bottom line is that the drug trade, whether legal or not, creates unintended societal consequences that affect us all.

Any public policy discussion related to creating a new legal drug market should include a discussion of these unintended effects. It is both logical and appropriate for an industry to participate in addressing the externalities it creates. Plus, the well-developed regulatory schemes that exist for the existing pharmaceutical industry are not in place in for medical marijuana.

Finally, we have not picked up on any opposition from industry representatives we have spoken with regarding the idea of the industry contributing to prevention and treatment efforts.

Therefore, the Center to Advance Justice, along with several advocacy organizations, respectfully suggests that the Legislature give serious consideration to retaining the existing sales tax and dedicating all or a portion of the funds to evidence-based prevention, education and treatment.

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Jim DeBeaugrine is the CEO of the Center to Advance Justice, a Florida nonprofit that provides information to the public and to policy makers regarding evidence-based approaches to reduce crime and the associated costs. He was formerly the staff director of the House Justice Appropriations subcommittee and the Executive Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Cost of tax exemption for medical marijuana would be minimal

No need to worry about the hit to general revenues from the Senate’s medical marijuana sales tax exemption.

The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference estimated Friday that the bill might reduce tax receipts, but not enough to notice — even when accounting for the non-state residents who would qualify for cannabis cards if the bill becomes law.

“We felt like there might be a few snowbirds coming in, but we didn’t think that would be a lot,” said Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

More telling would be CS/SB 406’s extension of medical marijuana use to people suffering “other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as those enumerated, and for which a physician believes the use of medical marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

“It does have a more expansive definition of ‘other,’ Baker said. “We think it adds to the pool of people (eligible to use), but we didn’t put a number on how many people.”

Bottom line: a “negative insignificant” revenue impact.

You’ll find more details about the bill, including a comparison to the House version, here.

The conference expects a proposed amendment to the House’s medical marijuana bill, HB 1397, exempting vaporizing devices from sales taxes, to have a “positive insignificant” effect.

That’s because of research suggesting the number of patients who “vape” is relatively small. Moreover, a lot of medical marijuana providers give the devices away free of charge, or at least offer free replacements if one breaks.

New wrinkles in Florida’s medical marijuana implementation raise doubts, concerns

I’ve not been shy about expressing my concerns about the implementation of Amendment 2, many of which stem from the fact that I’m the father of a young daughter. From that perspective, it’s imperative to me that Florida exercises necessary prudence and caution while putting in place the mandate from voters on medical marijuana.

I’m not ashamed to say: “Surely, not in my backyard!”

Call me NIMBY. Call me old fashioned. Just don’t call me Shirley.

The existing seven licenses to grow marijuana in Florida have, for the most part, taken a similar stance as I have on a responsible roll out of the new law. They have good reason to do so: a cautious, slowly phased-in, expansion of medical marijuana in Florida is good for their bottom lines.

That may seem greedy or cynical to some, but I don’t think it is. The intersection of philosophy and self-interest tends to be a strong impetus for the creation of public policy, and that’s a good thing.

But self-interest being self-interest you also can’t expect that intersection to remain static on a big piece of public policy, with big dollars at stake, like medical marijuana.

Certain recent events have given me a reason to take a step back on some of these issues and evaluate the philosophical honesty of the approach of Florida’s current Dispensing Organizations, soon to be reregistered as MMTCs under Amendment 2.

Let me start by saying that I accept the basic premise put forward by these DO’s and legislators that they’ve built businesses by a foregone conclusion that our nascent medical marijuana system would expand dramatically – either under Amendment 2’s passage or legislative action. And they have done so at significant expense, without much in the way of return, thus far.

Now, that investment alone doesn’t necessarily justify a policy of abject protectionism in implementing the constitution, but again, as it intersects with the notion of caution and public safety, the case gets stronger to do so.

Except for some new wrinkles.

This week, Canadian mega-marijuana corporation, Aphria Inc., announced a deal to essentially buy CHT Medical outright, one of the seven licensed DOs. They’re doing so with $25 million cash, while launching a $35 million raise, valuing the company at $177 million (!!!). CHT only began selling low-THC marijuana to patients in January, mind you.

As I outlined in my last piece on this subject, there was an intense and rigorous application process to select those current license holders. Particularly in the case of CHT’s apparent wholesale unloading of their license to Aphria, would essentially circumvent that entire vetting process. These investors could be great news for Florida, we just don’t know, since they didn’t go through the process like everyone else.

Second, it strikes me as a tad intellectually inconsistent to argue for sympathy over their investment in the Florida market in one breath, while raising big foreign investment dollars in the next. (And CHT isn’t alone in its fundraising, just the most public. As the Miami Herald has reported, almost all of the licensees are currently raising capital from investors.)

Finally, let’s think about the pitch these companies naturally would have to make to secure these sorts of massive capital infusions. Legal marijuana is big business, to be sure, but it’s also an industry in its infancy that is handcuffed in many ways by the glaring conflicts between state laws and federal law, where marijuana remains a DEA Schedule 1 substance. That’s why you still don’t see traditional money players like Goldman and Citi and their ilk playing in this space.

So why the big investments and insane valuations? The answer lies more in the licenses granted by Florida, and less in the P&Ls of the companies in question.

Under current law, after having gone through the rigorous application process, posting a $5 million bond, building growing, processing and retail facilities, and receiving DOH approvals to cultivate and then distribute medical marijuana, licensees can pretty much do whatever they want.

Most states with some form of legal marijuana require separate applications and licenses for each individual business operation. A grow has its own license, retail dispensaries are individually licensed, etc. Other states with vertical integration, like Florida, allow multiple operations under a single license. In those states, the maximum number of retail facilities that can be operated under a license is limited to 3 or less (except for New York, which allows 4).

In Florida? There is no limit.

That’s right, folks.

What the press corps and I have likewise been derelict in reporting on, is that our present cohort of marijuana growers in Florida can open unlimited retail facilities – “pot shops” in the parlance of this issue – across the state. And that’s precisely what they are planning to do with all of this new capital they are raising by the truckload.

A pot shop on every corner? Without action to fix this glaring loophole (heh), that’s where we’re headed.

Not in my backyard.

Is the Senate on the right path on medical marijuana?

The Senate, with the revised version of SB 406, appears to be on what is a fairly balanced means of implementing Amendment 2.

Is that my opinion?  Maybe.

But, as of yesterday, even the intrepid Ben Pollara sent an email saying (and I quote), “The Senate bill puts Patients First…” while most parties in attendance at the recent committee hearing waived in support. Not all, but most. That’s a far cry from where this was a few short weeks ago.

Good job senators.

But there is one provision that made it into the bill that will likely create (yet another) firestorm of lawsuits while unnecessarily jeopardizing patient safety. If enacted, this one provision and the resulting litigation conflagration will delay more licensees from entering the field of play or allow some substandard players with untested methods to slide into the market.

That provision should warrant another glance.

Here’s the deal … the bill (SB 406) as it left the committee allows — nay, requires — the Department of Health to issue five new licenses by Oct. 3 — of this year!

To clarify, these licenses must be completed and issued by Oct. 3.

Why should this freak some people out?

First, it is important to recognize that the Office of Compassionate Use (OCU) has only a handful of employees who are already up to their eyeballs in regulating the current crop of licensees, managing physician, and patient registries, handling complaints, issuing identification cards to patients and caregivers, etcetera. Second, it is also vital to understand how complex these new license applications are statutorily required to be. Last round, they averaged well over the 1,000+ page range.

Keep in mind that applicants must rush in these applications and then OCU must review, evaluate, score and award them (thousands of pages worth) – IN LIGHT SPEED.

They must do this, keep in mind, while issuing new patient and physician ID cards, implement sweeping new legislation, monitoring existing operations and do everything else they already do. Whew!

What could possibly go wrong?

With lots and lots (and lots!) of dollars on the table, and tens of thousands of pages to be scoured, there will certainly be at least a handful of aggrieved losers who will take their loss to the courts. We have danced this dance before.

But that’s not even the worst problem.

And what of these drive-thru applicants?  Will they be properly vetted?  Will their seed-to-sale systems be thoroughly reviewed for safety, purity, and consistency? Will the OCU be able to really ensure safe products?  We are, after all, dealing with some very sick patients who probably don’t need pesticides or other impurities being vaped into their lungs.

Consider that these new applicants must be able to demonstrate a safe and secure system of growing, processing and extracting CBD and THC products. OCU must evaluate, verify and score those systems. The applicants must clearly articulate how they will keep pesticides and other chemical impurities out of the final product. Then they need to develop and explain a failsafe system of tracking and identifying products while diagnosing on-site issues before the drugs leave their facilities. Further, they must also have a method – in writing – to ensure a consistent extraction technique to make sure that a dosage is exactly what it is supposed to be.

All of these safety measures must be carefully reviewed.

It isn’t growing tomatoes in your backyard. This is growing, processing and extracting a controlled substance. A substance that is meant to be carefully administered to very sick people and, I am sorry, but three short months is simply not enough time to ensure the safety of the patients who will be taking these drugs.

I am not disputing the notion of expanding the number of licenses – that’s another conversation for another column – but with such a (hyper) short application to award window, the most likely outcome (from this vantage point) will be years of litigation followed by an onslaught of safety problems.

Here’s what puzzles this writer.

SB 406 began its journey like most bills in the process; with a patient threshold (and not an arbitrary date) as a trigger to begin the process of awarding new licenses. It seems to make the most sense as it not only aligns the Senate bill closer to the House version, it relies on a logical progression based on actual users.

Why the change?  Why the ultra-short window?  Why take this chance?

This same body spent years designing a system to ensure the safety of patients. Um, where did that go?

Amendment 2 isn’t going anywhere, and, as of right now, there are only a few thousand active patients in the registry and far (far!) more than enough active dispensaries who are willing and able to service them. And, in case anyone needs to be reminded, you will be right back here in about 10 short months to evaluate progress.

The state of the market will be a whole lot clearer then, and we won’t have to guess how the system is working. But rushing to open the floodgates before the waters rise, just doesn’t seem like good policy – especially when sick patients’ lives are at stake.

medical marijuana

Senate panel OKs medical marijuana bill, speeds up pace for new licenses

A Senate panel is moving forward with its version of a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment, approving an amended version of the proposal during its meeting.

The Senate Health Policy Committee approved a bill (SB 406), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, that would implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Facing a jam-packed agenda, members set aside just over an hour to tackle the bill and 15 amendments, leaving little time for public input and member debate.

The panel adopted an amendment that would lower the threshold for adding new medical marijuana treatment centers. Under the amendment adopted Monday, the state would be required to add five additional medical marijuana treatment centers — at least of which must be a black farmer — by Oct. 3, 2017.

The amended bill calls on the state to register four more medical marijuana treatment centers within “six months after each instance of the registration of 75,000 qualifying patients with the compassionate use registry” if a sufficient number of applicants meet the registration requirements. Under the proposal, applicants must be registered to do business in the state for the previous five consecutive years before submitting an application.

Several members expressed concerns about opening up the market to new licenses. Sen. Bill Montford said he was concerned adding five more medical marijuana treatment centers into the market so soon could have a negative impact on companies that are currently dispensing medical marijuana. Montford encouraged members to slow the process down and take a more deliberative approach to expansion, noting they’ll be back in “less than a year” and could make “a more well-informed decision at that time.”

Bradley said the Senate’s position on the number of licenses could put them in a good position to have discussions with the House, which has approved a bill that calls on the state to issue new licenses after 150,000 qualified patients are registered in the compassionate use registry.

The Senate also approved an amendment that would allow patients who are not residents of Florida, but have a qualifying condition to have access to medical marijuana while they are in Florida if they can “lawfully obtain marijuana through a medical marijuana program in a state that he or she resides in.”

The amendment was meant to address concerns raised during a workshop last month about snowbirds or long-term tourists who live in a state with medical marijuana, but can’t access it while they’re visiting Florida.

The committee also adopted amendments to allow the Department of Health to charge “a reasonable fee associated with the issuance and renewal of patient and caregiver identification cards,” an amendment that would require medical marijuana be tested by an independent testing lab, and an amendment that would establish the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.

The bill now heads to the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

medical marijuana

Senate amendment quickens pace for medical marijuana treatment center growth

A Senate panel is poised to approve legislation this week that could add five more medical marijuana treatment centers in Florida by October and lower the threshold for adding additional treatment centers in the future.

The Senate Health Policy Committee is scheduled to discuss and vote on a bill (SB 406), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, that would implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The Orange Park Republican has filed eight amendments to his bill, incorporating aspects of several other implementing bills filed in the Senate during the 2017 Legislative Session.

One of the most significant changes Bradley has proposed would lower the threshold for adding new medical marijuana treatment centers. Under an amendment filed Friday, the state would be required to add five additional medical marijuana treatment centers — at least one of which must be a black farmer — by Oct. 3, 2017.

The amendment then stipulates within “six months after each instance of the registration of 75,000 qualifying patients with the compassionate use registry” the state register four additional treatment centers “if a sufficient number of MMTC applicants meet the registration requirements.”

That’s a significantly lower threshold than what Bradley first proposed. Under the bill Bradley filed in January, the state health department would have been required to add more treatment centers only when an additional 250,000 qualified patients registered with the compassionate use registry. After that, five new medical marijuana treatment centers would be registered when the number of patients reach 350,000; 400,000; and 500,000.

During a workshop in March, Bradley said based on feedback he received he had come to believe his bill was “too restrictive.”

If approved, the Senate bill has the potential to open the door for far more medical marijuana treatment centers than the House proposal (HB 1397).

That proposal, sponsored by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, calls on the state to issue licenses to five applicants denied by the Department of Health and one black farmer after 150,000 qualified patients are registered in the compassionate use registry. New applicants would then be allowed once there are 200,000 qualified patients.

Rodrigues’ bill cleared the Health Quality Subcommittee on a 14-1 vote, and will next be discussed in the House Appropriations Committee.

Bradley has also proposed an amendment that would require medical marijuana to be tested by an independent testing lab to ensure it meets the standards established by the state’s quality control programs. A bill (SB 1388) filed by Sen. Frank Artiles also called for independent third party testing.

Committee members will also be asked to vote on an amendment Monday that would establish the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.

The purpose of the coalition would be to “conduct rigorous scientific research, provide education, disseminate research, and to guide policy for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for the medicinal use of marijuana.” The amendment appears to be substantially similar to a bill (SB 1472) filed Sen. Bill Galvano, which passed the Senate Education on a 9-0 vote on March 27.

The Senate Health Policy Committee is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. in 412 Knott.

medical marijuana

House Health Quality Subcommittee approves medical marijuana implementing bill

A House panel approved legislation Tuesday that would implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment, despite concerns from some advocates the proposal doesn’t honor the spirit of the amendment.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill (HB 1397) that would implement the 2016 constitutional amendment. Sponsored by House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the bill would, among other things, maintain the current vertically integrated regulatory structure, only allow terminally ill patients to use vaporizers or consume cannabis products, and would make medical marijuana exempt from sales tax.

While the committee strongly supported the proposal, several members expressed reservations about some of the provisions outlined in the bill, including one that essentially calls for a three-month waiting period before a physician can recommend medical marijuana.

Rodrigues defended the inclusion of the language, saying it was part of low-THC medical marijuana bill passed passed in 2014. The state put in the requirement in response to the pill mill crisis in hopes it would shut down any “cash for prescription” operations.

He said he decided to keep the same 90-day waiting period in the implementing bill because the belief is that by making it easier for doctors to register and get certified to order medical marijuana for a qualified patient, more physicians across the state are likely to do so.

In that scenario, Rodrigues said it is likely that patients would be seeing a doctor they already have an established relationship with. But there is also a chance that physicians specializing in medical marijuana will emerge, and in that case Rodrigues said having the waiting period could help ward off bad actors.

Approved with support from 71 percent of Floridians in November, the constitutional amendment allows Floridians with debilitating medical conditions, determined by a licensed physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment went into effect Jan. 3, but state lawmakers and the Florida Department of Health have been tasked with implementing the law.

The health department began the process of creating rules in January, and has until July to put them in place. The Senate Health Policy Committee held a workshop on implementing the constitutional amendment last week, and Sen. Dana Young, the committee chairwoman, said it could be a few weeks before the panel votes on a measure. Five implementing bills have been filed in the Senate.

Opponents to the constitutional amendment lined up in support of Rodrigues’ bill on Tuesday, calling it a way to implement voters will, while balancing the public health and safety concerns.

“We believe this bill includes language that address our concerns and the concerns of our community,” said Amy Ronshausen, the deputy director of Save Our Society from Drugs. “We believe this bill clearly puts the public health and safety before the interests of big marijuana.”

But Ben Pollara, the executive director of Florida for Care, said the fact that so many one-time opponents have come out in support of Rodrigues’ bill should show it isn’t “representative of the will of the people.”

Pollara, who helped craft the constitutional amendment, commended Rodrigues for his thoughtful approach to the legislation, but said “unfortunately the result was he got the policy wrong.” He pointed to several provisions, including the 90-day waiting period, that he said created onerous barriers to patient access.

Committee members acknowledged the bill was not perfect, but said they appreciated Rodrigues’ willingness to work with those involved to hammer out the details going forward.

“We have a responsibility as lawmakers to make sure we do this right,” said Rep. Wengay Newton, a St. Petersburg Democrat. “I’m excited about the possibilities.”

Revenue conference prices sales tax exemption for medical marijuana

Legislation that would exempt medical marijuana from sales taxes would cost $24.3 million per year to Florida’s tax receipts, according to an estimate by state economists Friday.

HB 1397, by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues, is one of five medical marijuana bills to enact Amendment 2 that are circulating in the Legislature.

It would impose a number of restrictions on marijuana use — no smoking, vaping, or edibles, for example, although a terminally ill patient could vape.

The bill would take effect upon becoming law, and the state Revenue Estimating Conference concluded the state would have collected around $400,000 in pot taxes by that time.

As more people become eligible to use marijuana to treat medical conditions, the cost to state revenues would hike up to $24.3 million by 2021.

The Legislature could not use the money in the meantime to fund ongoing programs, although it would be available for one-time use each year, said Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

The conference dropped plans to calculate the effect of House legislation on pari-mutuel, card room, and Seminole Indian gambling. The House is taking a less permissive approach to gambling than the Senate is.

“It just means they weren’t ready for us to meet on it yet,” Baker said.

medical marijuana

Senate begins discussion of medical marijuana implementing legislation

Sen. Rob Bradley indicated he is willing to support opening up the medical marijuana market more than he first proposed, but continues to believe vertical integration is the right system for Florida.

Bradley, an Orange Park Republican, filed one of five medical marijuana implementing bills this Legislative Session. His proposal (SB 406) would, among other things, allow for the growth of the industry once the number of registered patients hits certain thresholds.

Under his proposal, the Department of Health would be required to register five more treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. After that, five new medical marijuana treatment centers would be registered when the number of patients reach 350,000; 400,000; and 500,000.

But on Wednesday, Bradley said he has come to believe his bill is “too restrictive based on the feedback (he) received.” Instead, he said he would support a measure that finds a balance between his proposal and one sponsored by Minority Leader Oscar Braynon.

Braynon’s bill (SB 1666), among other things, calls on the state to register 10 additional medical marijuana treatment centers by October 1. It then requires the Department of Health to register four more treatment centers each time the compassionate use registry adds qualified patients after Jan. 1, 2018.

“We’re going to have a population group (where) there isn’t enough competition to make sure the pricing is reasonable,” said Bradley during a Senate Health Policy workshop on medical marijuana implementation bills.

“The more people we have growing and selling, it provides different voices and ideas on how to treat things. One treatment center might have a specialty. That’s something that will develop organically.”

What Bradley doesn’t support, however, is a proposal to blow up the entire system and start from scratch. All but one — a bill (SB 614) by Sen. Jeff Brandes —  of the five proposals keeps the current regulatory framework in place.

Brandes’ bill gets rid of vertical integration, creating four different function licenses — cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail — that a medical marijuana treatment center can obtain. His bill also allows for treatment centers to get a combination of licenses, a departure from current law, which requires treatment centers to grow, process and sell their own product.

“I hear a lot of talk about the current system we have … being a cartel and we need a free market approach,” said Bradley. “This is not the selling of lawn mowers or office supplies. This is very different.”

The workshop marked the Senate’s first steps toward medical marijuana implementation, giving members a chance to questions Bradley and Sen. Dana Young, the committee’s chairwoman and a co-sponsor of Bradley’s bill, about medical marijuana measures that could be coming before the committee.

Sen. Frank Artiles and Sen. Denise Grimsley have also filed bills to implement the 2016 medical marijuana amendment.

Approved with support from 71 percent of Floridians in November, the constitutional amendment allows Floridians with debilitating medical conditions, determined by a licensed physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment went into effect Jan. 3, but state lawmakers and the Florida Department of Health have been tasked with adopting rules and implementing the amendment.

The Department of Health initiated the process of creating rules in January. The state agency has until July to put rules in place, but a recent poll found Floridians think the state is moving too slowly when it comes to implementing the amendment.

The poll, which was first reported by POLITICO Florida, found 44 percent of Floridians think the state is moving too slowly when it comes to implementing the law. Of those people who voted in favor of the measure, 57 percent said they believe the state is moving too slowly.

No action was taken during Wednesday’s meeting, and Young said a bill will be discussed and voted on at a later date.

House bill advances to give University of Florida $2.5M for medical marijuana study

The University of Florida would get about $2.5 million to study the effectiveness of medical marijuana under a bill that cleared the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday.

HB 3159 by Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle is aimed at the compassionate use bill lawmakers approved in 2014, which legalized low-THC, high-cannabidiol marijuana for the treatment of some diseases, such as epilepsy in children.

A similar, $1 million UF study was approved by the legislature back in 2015, with that money heading to a pediatric neurology lab.

Eagle’s budget request form for the bill lists UF Pharmacy professor Almut Winterstein as the requester. According to the document, about $1.2 million of the money will go to salaries and $654,000 for contracted services with most of the rest going toward data storage and travel expenses.

Since the 2014 law, the Legislature has approved full-THC marijuana for terminally ill patients and Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana for many other non-terminal medical conditions.

Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell said Eagle’s bill was a “key component” of the legislation lawmakers need to pass in order to put that constitutional amendment into action.

HB 3159 now moves on to the full Appropriations Committee, its final stop before it’s ready for a floor vote in the House.

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