State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, has filed a bill to make medical marijuana legal in Florida on a fast track, putting application forms in patients’ hands in less than a year.
Under S.B. 528, the Florida Department of Health would oversee cultivators, processors and retailers. That state agency also would issue medical marijuana identification cards to patients.
The health department would be ordered to make registration forms available to patients by Jan. 1, 2016 under the measure.
The bill provides for treatment of roughly the same patients and medical conditions as the proposed amendment that is now going through the petition-gathering process, aimed at the November 2016 ballot.
Brandes says he already has discussed the proposal with key elected officials in Tallahassee.
One obvious question will be: Can any such a measure have any hope of passage in a Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives and Senate?
Fifty-eight percent of Florida voters in the November election cast ballots in favor of medical pot, just short of the 60 percent required for passage of a constitutional amendment in the state.
“What we have tried to do is take the best of the other 23 medical marijuana states,” Brandes said of his proposed law. “For me, it is really about allowing doctors and patients to have another course of treatment, if they believe that is a reasonably prudent course.”
‘Floridians have spoken’
Marijuana activists were quick to applaud the proposal.
“Floridians have spoken on the issue of medical marijuana and Sen. Brandes has heard them,” said Ben Pollara, the executive director of the United for Care group that backs the proposed amendments. “This is a tremendous step towards passing a medical marijuana law without having to bring the issue back to voters in 2016.”
Already this year, United for Care has tweaked the language of the proposed 2016 amendment to satisfy some criticism, and has begun the process of getting the nearly 800,000 signature required to get the revised amendment on the November 2016 ballot.
Under the Brandes proposal, a qualified patient would be a resident who has been certified by a physician and diagnosed as suffering from one of eight listed medical conditions, or from “any physical medical condition or treatment for a medical conditions that chronically produces wasting syndrome, severe and persistent pain, persistent seizures, severe and persistent nausea, severe and persistent muscle spasms.”
The eight named medical conditions: cancer, HIV, AIDS, epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS), multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
One medical condition that is in the current proposed constitutional amendment but not in Brandes’ initial bill is post-traumatic stress disorder.
An Iraq war veteran, Brandes said: “We would be very open minded about adding that.”
The Republican senator said he has been discussing the proposal with other elected officials as the bill was being written.
“We’ve been asking that for a few weeks now, as we built this bill,” Brandes told the Herald-Tribune. “I have spoken to the governor’s office, to the president of the Senate, and to some of the leadership of the House. They are open-minded to this kind of legislation.
“All of us would agree it is best handled by statute, where it can be amended over time,” he said.
MIAMI-DADE, Fla. –
St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes proposed a bill Monday that would allow physicians in Florida to prescribe “medical-grade” marijuana to their patients with specified medical conditions.
Under The Florida Medical Marijuana Act, the Department of Health would regulate the cultivation and not the Department of Agriculture.
County commissioners would be responsible for providing a retail license to the dispensaries, which must hold a $1 million bond, the legislation says.
“It is critically important that we thoroughly vet any proposal related to medical cannabis,” Brandes said on Facebook. “And I am confident that this legislation will be carefully reviewed through the legislative process.”
The 28-page bill lists 14 illnesses including cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), epilepsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Patients and caregivers would need to apply for identification to a medical marijuana registry. The supply would be limited to 30 days, according to the legislation.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott would need to sign the bill for it to become law. He signed the restricted “Charlottes Web” bill.