A bill to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana passed its first committee stop in the Senate. The bill would legalize full-strength medical marijuana for terminally ill patients in Florida and eliminate roadblocks to care after nearly two years of delays since a bill to allow low-THC cannabis derivatives was enacted in 2014.
The bills (HB 307, SB 460) would allow the use of medical cannabis for palliative care patients who have been given diagnoses of less than one year to live by two doctors.
Known as Florida’s “Right to Try” law, which was passed earlier this year, the law would allow terminally ill patients to have access to drugs not approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If the bills are passed, medical marijuana would be added to the list.
The medical marijuana legislation would give five “dispensing organizations” — yet to be named — under Florida’s current non-euphoric cannabis law the ability to expand their businesses to include marijuana of any strength. Currently under Florida law, “Charlotte’s Web” is available for some patients with cancer or extreme muscle spasms.
Under the law, the Florida Department of Health will grant licenses to five nurseries that have been in business for at least 30 years and grow a minimum of 400,000 plants at the time they applied to become one of the state’s dispensing organizations. The businesses will grow, process and dispense the marijuana low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD.
But an amendment sponsored Tuesday by Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, to the bill for terminally ill patients would do away with the nursery restrictions and allow for up to 20 licenses.
The bill is “focused on helping dying people, folks who aren’t buying green bananas because they don’t have much time left on the planet earth,” Gaetz said. “Oftentimes at the end of life, we have Floridians who are so pumped full of morphine that they can’t even have a meaningful moment at the bedside to say goodbye to their loved ones.”
Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved the original version of the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, who also played a major role in passage of the 2014 law.
“I want to see the state deliver on our promise,” Bradley said. “That’s the only caveat.”
Bradley said lawmakers may need to overhaul the current regulatory structure laid out in the low-THC law, which the Legislature approved after lobbying by parents of children with severe epilepsy. “Looking forward to getting the gang back together,” was Bradley’s closing statement on the bill.
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