SStatSenate President Andy Gardiner Wednesday said he’s expecting ongoing discussions about the Department of Health rulemaking and medicinal marijuana when lawmakers convene the 2015 legislative session in March.
“I have heard from some senators a frustration when you pass legislation last May and the Department is still going through its rulemaking,” Gardiner said at the annual AP pre-session briefing in Tallahassee.
DOH and medicinal marijuana stakeholders will meet in a negotiated rulemaking session next week in Tallahassee. The Department is trying to craft a regulatory structure for the state’s low-thc/high cbd marijuana law.
A judge ruled its first proposal was invalid when nurseries challenged a licensing procedure that included a lottery. DOH hopes to have new plan ready for the Legislature’s ratification when it meets in March.
Florida law permits the growing of marijuana to dispense a medicinal oil to treat seizure, cancer and ALS patients. However, patient advocates concerned over DOH’s slow pace to implement the law are pushing for legislation to get a product to market.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes has filed a far more expansive proposal allowing the marijuana plant itself to be used to treat patients afflicted with 14 specific conditions. Whereas the current law authorizes five licenses to dispense cannabis oil, Brandes’ proposal does not limit the number of growers and retailers licensed to possess the plant.
“The issue has become, are you trying to address how slow the department has moved or are we going to the next step, which is to expand the Charlotte’s Web when we haven’t even implemented the existing program,” said Gardiner when asked about Brandes’ proposal.
Brandes’ SB 528 closely resembles Amendment 2, which received more than 57 percent of the vote in November but fell short of the 60 percent needed for ratification. It addresses the concerns raised by opponents to 2 and expands the number of patients eligible for the drug, including Parkinson’s, MS, Crohn’s, HIV and AIDs among the afflictions that can be treated with marijuana.
“Fifty-eight percent, that’s a pretty good percentage of people who like the idea of some sort of medical marijuana,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, discussing medicinal marijuana in general terms. “I think we should be having a full debate on the issue, again it’s what people want.”