A bill expanding the pool of patients eligible for medical marijuana in Florida reached the desk of Governor Rick Scott this week.
The bill (HB 307) originated in the house and was approved by the senate on a 28-11 vote. The governor has until March 25 to sign the bill into law.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 HB 307 builds upon the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act passed in 2014, which legalized low-THC (non-euphoric) cannabis for patients who are Florida residents, suffer from cancer or a condition that chronically produces seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, and have no acceptable alternative treatment options available to them.
The Medical Cannabis Act also established five dispensing organizations that would have sole control over all the medical marijuana produced in the state. However, the benefits of the 2014 law have yet to be seen by patients who need them because dispensary organizations not chosen by the state challenged the bill in court.
Bill Could Expand Number of Dispensing Organizations, Patient Pool In order to appease disgruntled dispensary organizations left out of the new system, HB 307 includes a path to expanding the number of groups that can grow and sell medical marijuana. That path is difficult though, as it requires 250,000 patients to register for medical marijuana, a number no state in the country has reached.
To address this issue, the bill expands the pool of eligible medical marijuana patients to include the terminally ill.
Yet despite these changes, the bill still has its detractors.
Morgan Leads Opposition to New Bill One of the most outspoken opponents of HB 307 is Morgan & Morgan founder John Morgan.
Mr. Morgan referred to the current bill as “typical Tallahassee window dressing, designed more to help with campaigns than serve as a true means of access for those that need it.”
He added that bill does nothing for quadriplegics like his brother; cancer patients who need marijuana to counter the effects of chemo, soldiers with PTSD, or patients with multiple sclerosis.
John Morgan is the chairman of the United for Care campaign and has been fighting for years for full legalization of medicinal marijuana in Florida. He is a major proponent of Amendment 2, a more extensive medical marijuana law that will be voted upon by the people of Florida on Election Day later this year.
Democratic Senator Jeff Clemens and Republican Senator Jeff Brandes have also voiced concerns about the bill. They worry that limiting the number of dispensaries to the original five approved by the state in 2014, even if Amendment 2 passes, will create a monopoly and is not in the best interests of patients.
The lasting impact of HB 307 is likely to have more of an impact on dispensary licenses than on the new patients it would make eligible for medical marijuana. Amendment 2 would expand medical marijuana far beyond what is proposed in the new bill. The latest polls show 65% of Floridians support the amendment.