Vowing that it’s merely a beginning, a Florida House panel gave the approval on Tuesday to a medical-marijuana proposal castigated by supporters of a constitutional amendment that legalized cannabis for a wide swath of patients with debilitating ailments.
The House Health Quality Subcommittee overwhelmingly approved the measure (HB 1397), sponsored by House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, with only one “no” vote after almost three hours of public testimony.
“I believe this is a calculated approach,” Rodrigues, R-Estero said, “but I’ll warn you that it’s not the final product.”
The Rodrigues proposal would forbid smoking of cannabis products as well as edibles, and would ban all but terminally ill patients from using vaporizers to have medical marijuana, among the greatest objections to the bill raised by supporters of the constitutional amendment.
Known as Amendment 2, more than 71 percent of Florida voters approved the ballot initiative in November. It came following the Legislature in 2014 and 2016 passed much-more limited medical marijuana laws, permitting non-euphoric cannabis for a number of patients and full-strength marijuana for those who have terminal illnesses.
The House bill would provide fewer added permits for purveyors of medical marijuana when compared to a Senate plan would allow. Presently, seven “dispensing organizations” have been approved by state health regulators.
Another point of controversy in the House proposal would require health officials to allow medical marijuana licenses to applicants that lost out when vying to become one of the handful of operators authorized to grow, process and distribute non-euphoric cannabis products more than a year ago.
The proposition would require the Department of Health to allow another five licenses after the patient population reaches 200,000, and another three licenses for every additional 100,000 patients registered in a state database.
That is in contrast with a leading Senate proposal, which will require the state to issue five new licenses by the end of the year and up to 20 new licenses —- almost quadruple the present number of seven —- by the time the patient registry reaches 500,000.
Rodrigues’ bill would likewise preserve a necessary three-month relationship between patients and physicians before health care providers could purchase the marijuana treatment, something critics say is hazardous.
Adversaries of the constitutional amendment —- including Drug Free America and Save Our Society from Drugs —- are throwing their support behind the Rodrigues bill.