Senate approves amended medical marijuana bill, sends back to House for final vote
Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, debates during the Senate's Committee on Rules Friday, April 28, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Legislature 07 ps 042817

The Florida Senate voted 31-7 to approve an amended version of a medical marijuana bill, sending it back to the House for a final vote on Friday.

But with the clock running out on the 2017 Legislative Session, the fate of the proposal remains unclear. The Senate amended the House bill (HB 1397) to limit the number of retail facilities licensed growers can have and remove a provision that would have made medical marijuana exempt from sales tax.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who carried the Senate’s implementing bill (SB 406), acknowledged the change marked a difference of opinions between the two chambers.

“I will tell you, this is a disagreement we have at this time,” he said.

The bill approved Thursday initially caps the number of retail facilities a licensed medical marijuana treatment center can have at five. The bill allows growers to add one additional store for every 75,000 patients that registers with the medical marijuana use registry.

Bradley said the Senate believes the new language dealing with caps strikes the right balance of allowing access, but making sure there “won’t be a dispensary on every corner.” Under this scenario, Bradley said once there are 300,000 qualified patients in the state, there will be more than 280 dispensaries across the state.

The House bill did not include caps, and Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the House sponsor, has spoken out against caps.

The amendment also removes a provision included in the original House bill that would have made medical marijuana and medical marijuana delivery devices tax exempt. Rodrigues has long said the House measure would not include a tax on medical marijuana, saying he wanted to honor advocates requests to treat “medical marijuana like medicine.”

The revised version of the bill also calls on the state to issue 10 additional license this year. The state would then be required to issue five additional licenses within 6 months of 75,000 patients registering with the compassionate use registry.

While the bill passed, some members continued to express concern about the measure. Sen. Jeff Clemens, who voted for the bill, was among those who expressed concern that the bill prohibits patient from smoking, noting that it is the only way some patients can get relief.

“This has been the issue I probably struggled with the most,” said Bradley, who said research has shown inhaling smoke into the lungs is not a healthy act. “We shouldn’t slow walk it, because that’s not the Constitution demands, but we should proceed cautiously. It is a feature of pacing.”

The bill could be taken up by the House on Friday. Although session has been extended, legislative leaders have said the only issue to be discussed on Monday will be the 2017-18 budget.

That means Friday is likely the last chance lawmakers will have to pass implementing language this Legislative Session. The House is scheduled to go into Session at 1 p.m.

“All of this effort is about the patients, and too much time and discussion and focus has been about other things,” said Bradley. “At the end of the day, what this is about is some of our sickest, fellow citizens getting something they are entitled to receive.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

One comment

  • HT

    May 5, 2017 at 11:25 am

    If the Florida Senate, House or health department wants to Control who or how “PATIENTS” can use Cannabis and not leave it up to the individual and their doctor the only thing I can say is they should be held liable for every needless death in the state of Florida.
    The following is the reason I have made such a strong statement.
    overdose deaths 2013 state of Florida, 2,474. Overdose deaths 2014 State of Florida 2,634 increase of 160 deaths. NOTE: CDC does not show yet OD Deaths for 2015 to present. I am sure the number is increasing. “UPDATE” Jacksonville Florida ABC Sun Coast News May 2017, reported 544 people died of overdose deaths in Jacksonville alone. They also investigated the claim that states that instituted a medical marijuana program saw a significant decline in the number of OVERDOSE DEATHS and prescription drugs issued through the Medicare program. WE ARE NOT TALKING about JUNKIES or HIPPIES HERE We are talking about SENIORS “MEDICARE PROGRAM” GRANDMOTHERS AND GRANDFATHERS. IF ABC Suncoast News did a followup story they would find that most of the States that had the more Liberal Laws had the best Results in combating the Narcotic Epidemic. NBC NEWS MAY 4 2017 ” Rick Scott governor of Florida has officially declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency”.the article also states “Scott had been under increasing pressure from lawmakers to do something about the epidemic”.
    As the legislation is drawn up Now it will do very little to help FLORIDA CITIZENS it instead is all about, campaign donations, greed, Prohibitionists, drug company s and a large donation 800,000 to the NO ON 2 campaign From a well known Florida food and drug chain and the list goes on. I am just an old Farm Boy and that was taught hard work and common Sence would always get me through LIFE. The one thing that I remember on our living room wall hung a picture of a cow standing on its own teat with tears in It’s eyes. The caption on the picture read “DON’T JUST STAND THERE DO SOMETHING” Except for a minute minority, Sen. Jeff Clemens , Sen. Jeff Brandes. and a couple more come to mind. AS FOR THE REST OF OUR LAWMAKERS, I DON’T THINK THEY HAVE ANYMORE BRAINS THAN A COW STANDING ON IT’S OWN TEAT.

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