House passes medical marijuana bill, still bans smoking

The Florida House on Tuesday passed legislation to implement the medical marijuana amendment approved by voters last November.

  • Florida House passed medical marijuana bill
  • Bill now allows edibles and vaping, more dispensaries
  • Still has differences from Florida Senate bill
  • CAPITOL CONNECTION: Latest News | Contact your Florida legislators

Despite making significant concessions, however, the chamber’s Republican leaders held firm on their refusal to allow patients to smoke the drug.

The demand led some pro-medical marijuana representatives to vote against the bill. During an at-times impassioned debate, they called on Republicans to fully embrace the Senate’s plan for implementing Amendment 2.

“The last time I checked, Florida was the Sunshine State, not a nanny state,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando). “Who are we to tell legitimate patients that they can’t smoke their cannabis? That’s not our business, members.”

In a bid to bring the two chambers closer together on one of the legislative session’s most pressing issues, House leaders agreed to drop a number of restrictions that had made their original implementation bill much more conservative than the Senate’s. A 90-day waiting period for patients to obtain medical marijuana prescriptions from new doctors was scrapped, as well as a ban on marijuana in edible and vaped form. The House bill would also allow for 10 new medical marijuana nursery licenses to be issued after July 1, a dramatic jump from the previous framework.

But allowing marijuana to be smoked was a bridge too far for many of the House’s most conservative members, who argued that dosages of the drug couldn’t be reliably delivered through a joint. Other Republicans questioned whether marijuana even has medicinal benefits.

“Some of us may believe that medical marijuana exists, but in point of fact, you will find no convincing scientific evidence that proves that point,” said Rep. Julio Gonzalez (R-Venice), a physician.

With the Senate set to approve its medical marijuana bill as soon as Wednesday, negotiations over with the House over a compromise measure are expected to take place in the waning hours of the legislative session. Senate leaders have cautioned that a more conservative implementation scheme could trigger lawsuits from medical marijuana advocates.

“The more restrictive we are, the more likely we would have litigation on this,” said Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa).

And critics of the House bill warned that banning smoked marijuana would almost certainly lead to a prolonged court fight.

“Would we rather this person get prescription opioids to handle the pain – maybe they’re chasing those pills down with booze, who knows – or would we prefer that they smoke a bowl and go to sleep, and actually wake up the next morning?” Guillermo Smith asked during Tuesday’s debate.

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