Florida lawmakers say they have struck a deal to permit the use of medical marijuana throughout the state, potentially resolving a key piece of unfinished business from this year’s regular legislative session.
State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, announced this morning he would file legislation that would “ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters.”
UPDATE: The bill, Senate Bill 8A, has been filed. You can read it here.
The proposed legislation, to be considered during this week’s special legislative session, implements a state constitutional amendment passed in November that legalized marijuana’s medical use.
Bradley’s legislation is part of a deal struck between House and Senate members, legislators said.
“We drove down to the two-yard line, and we weren’t able to punch it into a touchdown,” Bradley told The News Service of Florida. “Now we’ve scored.”
In the House’s opening session this morning, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said the two chambers had reached “conceptual agreement” on medical-marijuana legislation, The News Service of Florida reported.
Rodrigues said the House was reviewing Bradley’s Senate bill to ensure it matches up with House members’ aims. The House could approve a version of the bill Thursday, he said.
House and Senate leaders had worked towards a deal throughout the regular session but were unable to come to agreement as the session ended in early May, with disagreement centering around the number of dispensaries that would be permitted.
An impasse would have left it to state health officials to craft rules for how to implement the constitutional amendment.
The bill calls for the state to grant licenses to 10 medical marijuana treatment centers, along with the seven that already hold licenses to cultivate low-THC marijuana for the state’s current, more limited cannabis program.
Under the bill, dispensaries would be allowed to advertise their products, but state officials would have to approve all advertisements, and no cartoon characters or marketing techniques aimed at children are permitted.
Counties and cities would be allowed to ban dispensaries, and none could be located within 500 feet of a school.
Doctors who certify patients to receive medical marijuana without “reasonable belief” that they suffer from a medical condition eligible for treatment would be guilty of first-degree misdemeanor.
The bill would not allow medical marijuana to be consumed by smoking it. A smoking ban had been a key point of debate during the regular session.
In a statement, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said that the bill “demonstrates fidelity to the Constitution by implementing the amendment passed by the voters last November.”
“The bill will also further the work the Legislature has done over the past few years to pass legislation authorizing the medical use of marijuana and other developing medications for our fellow citizens who are suffering from serious medical conditions and illnesses,” Negron said.