The state Senate approved the measure March 7 on a 28-11 vote, with the House passing it on a 99-16 vote the week before. With Gov. Scott’s signature, it is now in effect.
Bill sponsor state Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the measure stems from some lawmakers’ frustration with other legislation, the 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, also called known as the Charlotte’s Web bill.
Challenges to the CMCA have kept the low-THC medical marijuana authorized in that bill from hitting the market and the hands of cancer patients and young people suffering debilitating seizures.
Another bill passed in 2015, the Right to Try Act, allows eligible patients with terminal conditions to try investigational drugs. However, that law did not address cannabis.
The new bill allows doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients eligible under Right to Try, while also adding medical pot to be regulated under the 2014 law.
Following emotional testimony Monday, the state Senate approved the legislation (CS/HB 307) on a 28-11 vote. It cleared the House 99-16 last week.
Scott, though, has been described as “iffy” on the measure by lawmakers close to the issue.
The bill would allow marijuana to be included as an experimental drug under a state law which allows doctors to order not fully approved medication for patients expected to die within a year.
Senate sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the bill grows out of frustration with the so-called Charlotte’s Web legislation approved two years ago by lawmakers.
That effort was supposed to get a non-euphoric, marijuana oil in the hands of cancer patients and youngsters suffering from severe seizures as early as January 2015.
But regulatory and legal challenges continue to keep the product off the market.
“Two years later, not one child in the state of Florida has received help from that law we passed in 2014,” Bradley told the Senate. “And that makes me angry and it makes me embarrassed. And it’s time to end it.”
The legislation maintains the five nurseries selected by the state Health Department to grow, process and distribute the oil low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — the compound which gives marijuana its psychoactive quality.
But it also now gives them authority to grow full-strength pot for medical use.
Some opponents condemned the legislation as doing nothing to remedy the problem with accessing the low-THC oil – while kicking the door open to medical marijuana around the state.
Almost a year-and-a-half since Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers legalized a form of medical marijuana, the latest deadline for making it available to Floridians has gone up in smoke.
“I have gotten so very angry,” said Ava Pence, a Palm Beach Gardens teacher whose 9-year-old daughter, Meredith, suffers from Dravet syndrome, a severe epilepsy.
“It just feels like it’s been a terrible betrayal. We once thought we were going to be taken care of,” she said. “Now, we just don’t know.”
Cancer patients, as well as those suffering seizures as Pence’s daughter does, were supposed to be able to obtain a non-euphoric marijuana oil dubbed Charlotte’s Web beginning Jan. 1, 2015. But crafting regulations for a new Florida marijuana industry has stalled the introduction.
“Every week that goes by that this substance is not in the hands of these suffering families is one week too long,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, a sponsor of last year’s Charlotte’s Web bill. “I continue to be very, very frustrated.”