With just days left in the 2017 Legislative Session, the Senate appears poised to take up and amend the House version of a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment.
The Senate placed the House bill (HB 1397) on Thursday’s Special Order calendar on Wednesday evening. The Senate proposal (SB 406) was on Wednesday’s calendar, but was temporarily postponed. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley, spent most of the day at the rostrum presiding over the day’s business.
Bradley filed a 70-page, delete everything amendment to the House bill at 11:24 a.m. Thursday. The amendment, among other things, initially limits growers to five retail facilities, but allows for new retail facilities to come online as the patient population grows; calls on the Department of Health to issue 10 new licenses no later than Oct. 1; and issues five new licenses for every 75,000 patients.
“Sen. Bradley’s amendment to HB 1397 moves much closer to the House’s position than I wanted to see, but nevertheless has the full support of Florida for Care. Anyone who would say Bradley’s proposal is anything but a fair reasonable compromise between the two chambers are being unreasonable themselves,” said Ben Pollara, the executive director of Florida for Care in a statement. “This legislation must be headed to Gov. Scott by the end of the day tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians are counting on it.”
The House voted 105-9 on Tuesday to approve its version of the bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues. As it stands right now, the House bill allows pregnant women to use low-THC cannabis, allows patients to use low-THC cannabis in public, and allows the use of edibles and vaping.
It also quickens the pace by which the state issues licenses, grandfathering in current license holders and calling on the Department of Health to issue a license to any applicants denied a license, if the applicant was awarded “a license pursuant to an administrative or legal challenge.”
It then calls for the DOH to issue more licenses no later than July 1, 2018. Under the bill, one of the applicants in each region must be the “next-highest scoring applicant after the applicant or applicants that were awarded a license for that region; was not a litigant in an administrative challenge on or after March 31; and is not licensed in another region.” It also needs to issue a license to a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association.
The bill currently requires the department to issue four four additional licenses within six months after the registration of 100,000 active, qualified patients in compassionate use registry.
Bradley’s amendment seeks to change that. His amendment calls on the state to issue 10 additional license by Oct. 1, 2017. The state would then be required to issue five additional licenses within 6 months of 75,000 patients registering with the compassionate use registry.
The House bill currently does not include caps. Bradley’s amendment adds language that would initially cap the number of retail facilities a licensed grower can have at five. Under the proposed amendment, however, licensed growers can add one additional store for every 75,000 patients.
The most recent version of the Senate bill caps retail facilities at three facilities per grower, and does not allow for a growth as the patient population grows.
Pollara said he is in favor of the “number of dispensaries per license.”
“The last thing that I want is litigation, and I can assure you that I will not pursue it as a result of these caps,” he said in a statement. “Bradley’s proposal would allow for the marijuana industry to grow alongside the patient population, providing competition and reasonable access.”
Pollara urged the Senate to “adopt this amendment and send this legislation back to the House as soon as possible.”
The Senate could take up the proposal later this afternoon.