Medical marijuana Archives - Page 2 of 34 - Florida Politics

Are vaping and smoking the same? Ray Rodrigues won’t say

As the medical marijuana implementation bill winds its way through the Special Session, some lawmakers still are grappling with whether smoking medicinal cannabis is the same as ‘vaping’ it.

Before the Health and Human Services Committee approved the House bill (HB 5A) on Wednesday night, members asked bill sponsor Ray Rodrigues, the House Republican Leader from Estero.

“Are we allowing smoking?” asked Rep. Thad Altman, an Indialantic Republican. Nope, said Rodrigues, just vaping—short for vaporizing.

Earlier Wednesday, John Morgan—attorney, entrepreneur and main backer of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment—said he still plans to sue the state because lawmakers won’t explicitly allow smokeable medicinal cannabis.

“I will be suing the state to allow smoke,” he said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com. “It was part of my amendment.”

It’s not entirely clear that it is; the amendment’s language can be read as allowing smoking but doesn’t make it explicit.

“Is vaping igniting?” Altman also asked. Rodrigues punted, saying he wasn’t an expert, but offered that vaping allows more control of marijuana dosage.

Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican and licensed physician, also dug in.

“If we have the whole flower being ignited … wouldn’t that be a form of smoking?” asked Massullo, a dermatologist.

“I’m not trying to be cute,” Rodrigues said, “but I would need to see it to understand it.”

Medical Jane, a medicinal cannabis information website, says vaping works by “passing heated air over the dried herb (or concentrate), vaporizing the material more evenly and efficiently.” (Debate continues over whether it’s any better for your lungs than smoking, however.)

The marijuana “never comes in touch with the heating element; instead air is either forced by a fan, or through inhalation, over the herbs and through the delivery system,” unlike lighting up and taking a drag on a marijuana cigarette.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Rodrigues still wouldn’t commit.

“As a non-user, I can’t give you that answer,” he said. Given the example of boiling a liquid in a glass container till it gives off vapor, he again deferred.

“You can ask this question in any format you want, I will continue to give the same answer,” Rodrigues said, smiling.

The committee also cleared a related privacy bill (HB 7A) that adds caregivers to patients and doctors in a public records exemption covering personal identifying information in the state’s “Compassionate Use Registry.”

Also, in debate, Altman called the amendment “incredibly misleading (and) flawed from the beginning,” saying he isn’t convinced that there’s good scientific evidence showing marijuana’s medicinal benefit. 

Tallahassee physician Michael W. Forsthoefel, for example, wrote an October 2014 “My View” column for the Tallahassee Democrat, saying he “never would recommend marijuana to any of my patients.”

“With more than 400 chemical compounds at varying strengths, it is impossible to have standardization from one patient to the next, and any potential side effects or drug interactions could do far more harm than good,” he wrote.

Forsthoefel did say “there are compounds in the marijuana plant that can be helpful.”

As Altman put it Wednesday, “We are practicing medicine by petition and that is going to hurt a lot of people. People will suffer because of this (amendment) and I believe people will die.”

 

Rick Scott expands special session call to include medical marijuana

Medical marijuana has officially been added to the agenda for this week’s special session.

Gov. Rick Scott issued a proclamation Tuesday afternoon expanding the three-day special session to include medical marijuana implementing legislation. The announcement came shortly after Scott met with House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who carried the implementing legislation during the regular session.

“Medical marijuana was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016, and I believe that it is the role of the Florida Legislature to determine how to best implement this approved constitutional amendment,” said Scott in a statement. “I am glad that both the Florida Senate and House are moving toward crafting legislation to help patients, and I have added medical marijuana to the call for special session.”

Sen. Rob Bradley has filed legislation that will be taken up this week. During a brief floor session Wednesday, Rodrigues told members the bills appeared to “match up” with the House’s position. He expected a bill on the House floor by Thursday.

The agreement calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven that already hold a state license under the existing, limited cannabis program. Five new growers would be added for every 100,000 patients.

Retail facilities would be capped at 25; however, the cap on dispensaries will sunset in 2020.

“I know many members of the Legislature, including Senate President Joe Negron and Speaker Richard Corcoran, have worked hard on implementing Amendment 2 and I look forward to the Legislature passing a bill this week that puts Florida patients first,” said Scott in a statement.

The 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

 

Lawmakers agree to tackle medical marijuana during Special Session

Lawmakers reached agreement early Wednesday, hours before the start of this week’s Special Session, to include medical marijuana implementation in the call.

After FloridaPolitics.com broke this news, the Florida Senate announced that Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, would “file legislation to implement Article X, section 29 of the Florida Constitution, which allows the use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. The Senate will consider the bill during this week’s Special Session.”

The agreement calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven that already hold a state license under an existing, limited cannabis program. Five new growers would be added for every 100,000 patients, Sen. Bill Galvano, who was involved in negotiations, told the Tampa Bay Times.

As for a cap of on the number of dispensers each grower can open, the magic number is 25. Under the proposed legislation, the cap on dispensaries will sunset in 2020.

Funding for medical marijuana research at the Moffitt Cancer Center is also expected to be included in the legislation.

At a brief floor session Wednesday, House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero told members the Senate bill appeared to “match up” with the House’s position. He expected a bill on the House floor by Thursday.

The Senate bill, released later Wednesday, tracked the reported highlights.

“This legislation demonstrates fidelity to the Constitution by implementing the amendment passed by the voters last November,” Senate President Joe Negron said in a release. “The bill will also further the work the Legislature has done over the past few years to pass legislation authorizing the medical use of marijuana and other developing medications for our fellow citizens who are suffering from serious medical conditions and illnesses.”

The 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

In this year’s regular session, ended in May, lawmakers failed to agree on a bill related to the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

The two chambers this year came to an impasse over the number of dispensaries, with the Senate moving to 15, “five times the original cap of three in an earlier version of the Senate bill,” Negron explained in a recent memo.

But the House “responded by setting its dispensary cap at 100 and providing a deadline for issuing new licenses of more than a year from now. Obviously, the Senate was not in a position to accept this House proposal. The medical cannabis bill then died,” Negron wrote.

The state in 2014 legalized low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

The state later expanded the use of medicinal marijuana through the “Right to Try Act,” which includes patients suffering intractable pain and loss of appetite from terminal illnesses.

John Morgan: I’m still suing the Legislature

Where there’s no smoke, there’s a John Morgan lawsuit.

Morgan—attorney, entrepreneur and main backer of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment—Wednesday said he still plans to sue the state despite lawmakers brokering a deal to include implementation of the measure in this week’s Special Session.

Mainly, Morgan’s hair’s on fire that Florida doesn’t allow smokeable medicinal cannabis. Morgan first said he planned to sue last month.

“Done is better than perfect and this is far from perfect,” he said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com. “I will be suing the state to allow smoke. It was part of my amendment.”

The marijuana amendment refers to allowing smokeable cannabis only obliquely, however.

It says in one section, for instance, the state can’t “require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.”

The amendment also uses the state law definition of marijuana that includes “every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin,” seeming to suggest smokeable cannabis is included. 

“These legislators don’t understand capitalism because almost all of them have never run a business or made a payroll or made money,” Morgan added. “Some are so broke they need a cosigner to pay cash.

“The free market will sort this all out,” he added. House Speaker RichardCorcoran was right. Cream rises. Price and service dictate who wins and who loses. Just ask Kmart, Sears and J.C. Penney. And ask Wal-Mart about Amazon.”

Lawmakers reached agreement early Wednesday, hours before the start of this week’s Special Session, to include medical marijuana implementation in the call.

The deal calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven existing ones. Five new growers would be added for every 100,000 patients, and a limit of 25 retail locations per authorized grower will be OK’d. That cap will “sunset” in 2020.

The 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

The medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016, with just over 71 percent of statewide voters approving the measure.

Jose Javier Rodriguez: We’re being called back to bless backroom deal

Democrats staked out their contempt for the stated purpose of the Legislature’s Special Session today with state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriquez saying lawmakers are being called in to bless a backroom deal to give the governor a slush fund.

Rodriguez, of Miami, and state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park decried what they described as a cynical process for Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders to get what they want in exchange for $2015 million in education funding that already had been stripped away from public schools and routed to charter schools in House Bill 7069.

The special session begins this afternoon and is scheduled to run through Friday. Scott called the session to also establish the Florida Job Growth Fund to promote public infrastructure and individual job training and fund it at $85 million, the same amount he requested for incentive programs for Enterprise Florida; and pass legislation that sets aside $76 million for VISIT Florida and includes comprehensive transparency and accountability measures for the organization.

Rodriguez called the Florida Job Growth Fund a “slush fund” for the governor.

“We’re coming up here basically because we’re being asked to bless a deal that has been cut,” Rodriguez charged.

“One of the things being done with respect to our economic development program is creating this job growth program, which looks more like a slush fund than anything else, $85 million, that is not subject to scrutiny that we are going to be increasing on Enterprise Florida,” Rodriguez added. “It basically is the governor’s pot of money to do with what he will.”

Jones took aim at the education funding and HB 7069, which was passed on the last day of the Legislative Session and awaits transmittal to the governor’s office. That bill, he charged, was created without transparency “at its worst.”

He and Rodriguez characterized the Special Session as a waste of time and money and not good for Florida residents. But Rodriguez acknowledged that could change if medical marijuana is scheduled, as FloridaPolitics.com reported earlier Wednesday will happen.

“If we are being called up here to enact the will of the voters, yeah, sure, that’s a reason to have a Special Session,” he said.

Would it really be so bad if lawmakers didn’t take up pot during special session?

What!? No medical marijuana in the call for a Legislative Special Session? OMG!

Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Would it be so awful if lawmakers returned and did not take up medical marijuana? Now, don’t get me wrong. I think they should. If they don’t, the Florida Department of Health will be left to develop emergency rules. The Board of Medicine will tinker. The current crop of licensees will continue to produce and sell products. The courts may (or may not) get involved, but probably not in time this year to make a difference.

But, just for a minute, let’s step back from the edge and walk through this scenario.

Right now, licensees are opening dispensaries at a fairly brisk pace – Trulieve is likely to open two in the next two weeks alone. As of this writing, there are about 12,000 patients in the registry (not 20,000 as reported in the Herald-Tribune this weekend). That’s about a six-fold increase since March! Wow!

And when lawmakers meet this week will they take up medical marijuana?

Senate President Joe Negron must agree to increase the caps on dispensaries to ensure a deal. During the regular session, he was dug in at five dispensaries per licensee. Will he be willing to move toward the House position and increase the number of dispensaries five or ten fold to get a deal? Unlikely. Negron doesn’t like to cave to the House.

What we do know is if they don’t reach a deal by close of business Tuesday, there likely won’t be a medical marijuana bill during the Special Session.

From this vantage point, it looks a lot like the functional equivalent of status quo for at least another year.

Is that really so bad? Is either scenario much different?

Before the pro-Amendment 2 folks light me up (not the worst pun ever), hear me out. Seriously take a knee for a second. Under either scenario, does the world look much different if they do or do not include medical marijuana in the call?

Don’t ply me with “their sacred duty” arguments because I agree. They should figure this out. But with almost 100 percent certainty, if they include it and they pass something, it is hard to see how or why it will make much of a difference in the near or even midterm.

The patient registry is growing briskly. Competitive fires are burning across the state as licensees are scrambling to grab market share and get to market quickly (that IS what you said you wanted) and with each passing day, a growing number of patients are receiving medical cannabis as treatment. Last I checked, the world hasn’t ended.

But here’s another truth: nobody (especially the ardent pro-Amendment 2 folks) is going to be happy or even satisfied if they include medical cannabis in the call and pass something that is almost certainly going to be a compromise.

So it won’t be the end of the world if the lawmakers don’t tackle pot this week.

‘Progress’ on getting marijuana in Special Session but ‘no deal’ yet

Legislative leaders working behind the scenes are getting closer to putting medical cannabis implementation into the call of this week’s Special Session.

For instance, one senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “some progress” had been made but there was “no deal” as of Monday afternoon.

When this week’s Wednesday-Friday Special Session was announced last Friday, it only included plans to fund education, tourism marketing and economic development.

That’s despite dozens of lawmakers, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who have said the Legislature needs to pass implementing legislation this year for the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana.

Lawmakers came to impasse on a bill during the regular session that ended in May. The biggest sticking point was a cap on the number of retail locations licensed growers could have in the state.

In a memo to House members Friday, Corcoran said the House has “communicated to the … Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call.” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, posted on Facebook he has filed the substance for a “comprehensive medical marijuana bill to the legislature’s drafting office … out of an abundance of caution.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to adopting a patient-focused medical marijuana law,” he wrote.

Florida for Care, the group advocating for implementing legislation, sent an email to supporters urging them to contact their legislators to “demand medical marijuana be added to the call for next week’s special session.”

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said he would be “supportive” of the Legislature adding it to the call of the Special Session. Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam also has come out in support of addressing marijuana in a Special Session.

The amendment was passed in 2016 by just over 71 percent of statewide voters. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Special session called to tackle economic programs, public education funding

Florida lawmakers will head back to Tallahassee for a special session next week to address economic programs and public education funding.

Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron announced Friday morning lawmakers will convene in a special session from June 7 to June 9 to tackle several issues relating to the budget.

The announcement coincided with news that Scott signed the budget 2017-18 budget, vetoing $410 million in legislative projects. The Naples Republican also vetoed the Florida Educational Finance Program, which funds K-12 public education, and a bill (HB 5501) that, among other things, slashed funding for Visit Florida Funding by 60 percent. A full list of vetoes is expected to be released later today, according to the Governor’s Office.

The governor is calling on the Legislature to provide an additional $215 million to K-12 public education, which would increase per student funding by $100; establish the Florida Job Growth Fund to promote public infrastructure and individual job training and fund it at $85 million, the same amount he requested for incentive programs for Enterprise Florida; and pass legislation that sets aside $76 million for Visit Florida and includes comprehensive transparency and accountability measures for the organization.

In a memo to House members Friday, Corcoran said the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund would be housed within the Department of Economic Opportunity and would provide “$85 million in new resources to be used for public infrastructure and workforce training.”

The House railed against incentive programs this year, even voting overwhelming to abolish Enterprise Florida, the state’s private-public economic development program. However, Corcoran told members the new program would not be used for the exclusive benefit of one company, and could become “a model for the nation.”

“The bill will be a flexible fund that the Governor can use to help create the infrastructure and job skills necessary to support economic diversification for targeted industries or for specific regions of the state,” he wrote. “The bill will require that funds be used for broad public value and not for the exclusive benefit for any one company. We believe that this new tool can become a model for the nation.”

In his memo to members, Corcoran said legislation filed during the special session, which will be carried by Rep. Paul Renner, will including $76 million in funding, but maintain the “kind of strong accountability and transparency language passed” during the 2017 regular Session.

The Senate did not support the House position on cuts to Enterprise Florida or Visit Florida, and Negron said Friday he was pleased the House was moving to the Senate position on those issues. The Senate also wanted a higher per-pupil funding model.

“As we prepare to return to Tallahassee, it appears that our colleagues in the House have expressed a willingness to move toward the Senate position in several key areas, including a significant increase in per student funding for our K-12 public schools, as well as elevating the state investment in tourism marketing and economic development efforts,” said Negron in a memo to members. “I look forward to advocating for Senators’ budget priorities during the upcoming Special Session.

In return for reaching a compromise on his top priorities, the governor is expected to sign a wide-sweeping education bill (HB 7069), a top priority for Corcoran, and a higher education bill (SB 374), a top priority for Negron. Both bills have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, in part over concerns they were negotiated largely behind closed doors.

When asked whether he planned to sign the education bill during a press conference in Miami on Friday, Scott said he was reviewing it.

The call, signed by Scott and filed with the Department of State at 9:30 a.m., does not include medical marijuana. However, Corcoran told members in a memo Friday morning the “House has communicated to … the Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call to address the implementation of the constitutional amendment approved by voters of the constitutional amendment approved by the voters during the 2016 election.”

Medical marijuana push continues for Rob Bradley

There are a number of pieces of unfinished business for the Florida Legislature this month; among them: agreeing on rules for medical cannabis.

The regular Legislative Session ended without complete agreement from the Senate and the House, especially on caps for retail dispensaries for licensed growers.

While the Special Session announced on Friday by Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron did not include explicit reference to medical marijuana as one of the issues to be addressed, there is appetite for resolving issues legislatively.

And a bit of a recalibration in Senate strategy, as POLITICO Florida reported Friday.

“It is my understanding that Sen. [Rob] Bradley will continue to be the bill sponsor in a Special Session,”  Sen. Bill Galvano, the next Senate President, told POLITICO Florida.

“Leader [Wilton] Simpson is going to take more of a role in the negotiations on the issue as Majority Leader,” Galvano added.

We asked Sen. Bradley what the ramifications of that would be, in terms of process and policy.

“I wouldn’t read too much into the situation,” Bradley texted us Friday morning, regarding the Galvano quote.

“Simpson and I cross train on many issues and often work together to get them done. We are close friends and colleagues and I’m glad he’s involved to help bring this in for a landing,” Bradley added.

“The singular focus of the Senate is access to patients who deserve this medicine. The bill I present on the floor next week will likely be very similar to the versions that were 95% worked out with the House during regular session,” Bradley concluded.

With the pitched rhetoric of the Legislative Session being dialed down ahead of the Special Session on other issues, expect that medical cannabis will be yet another issue on which pragmatism ultimately prevails.

House Speaker Corcoran asserted Friday morning that the “House has communicated to … the Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call to address the implementation of the constitutional amendment approved by voters of the constitutional amendment approved by the voters during the 2016 election.”

medical marijuana

Rick Scott says he’s ‘reviewing’ whether to call medical marijuana special session

Gov. Rick Scott did not close the door entirely on a special session on medical marijuana, telling reporters his office was reviewing his options.

“I know there’s a lot of people involved and interested in the issue,” said Scott, following a stop in Fort Myers on Tuesday morning.

Scott said a special session was “something we’re reviewing.”

The comments come as calls for a special session to pass rules governing medical marijuana implementation continue to mount. More than a dozen state lawmakers have sent letters to the Department of State asking for a special session, and others have taken to social media to show their support for a special session.

Lawmakers couldn’t agree on an implementing bill before the end of the 2017 Legislative Session earlier this month. One of the main sticking points between the House and Senate was whether to limit the number of retail facilities licensed growers could have. The Senate supported caps; the House did not.

Calls for a special session to address medical marijuana began almost as soon as the 2017 Legislative Session ended. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he supported a special session on the issue; while Senate President Joe Negron has asked members for their input on how they think the they should proceed.

Lawmakers could head back to Tallahassee if Scott were to decide to call a special session; or if Corcoran and Negron issue a call for a special session. There is also a process for rank-and-file members to trigger a special session, something some members are trying to do.

As of last week, 16 members of the House and Senate had sent letters to the Department of State asking for a special session. The department received 11 letters from House members, including Rep. Kathleen Peters and Rep. Katie Edwards, and five from senators, including Sen. Darryl Rouson and Sen. Greg Steube.

“It is with great urgency that I write this letter to you requesting that the State of Florida properly and efficiently convene a Special Session that serves the purpose of ensuring that the 71% of Floridians that voted for the legalization of medical marijuana are heard,” wrote Rep. Shevrin Jones in a May 24 letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “It is our duty to ensure that the usage of medical marijuana serves its purpose here in the great state of Florida to enervate medical conditions.”

If 32 lawmakers formally request a special session, the department must poll the Legislature. Three-fifths of each chamber need to agree before a call is issued.

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