Florida legislators say yes to new licenses, no to smoking medical marijuana

Published: Jun. 7, 2017 at 9:08 AM EDT
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By: Jake Stofan; Capitol News Service

June 8, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Legislation to implement voter-approved medical marijuana is moving forward as the House and Senate versions of the bill passed through their final committee stops Thursday.

The new version of the bill includes a number of changes to licensing for growers and the number of dispensaries allowed.

10 new growers would be allowed by October, bringing the number of licensed growers in the state to 17. Each grower could operate up to 25 retail stores.

The number of stores and growers would increase as the number of patients increase.

Black farmers are guaranteed at least one license, and citrus growers will receive preference for at least two of the ten new licenses.

“It breaks your heart when you see some of these old orange juice factories that are shut down, jobs lost. Now, transitioning those industries to something new,” says Senator Rob Bradley.

But, medical marijuana activist Louis Rotundo says citrus growers aren’t necessarily the most qualified to grow the plant.

“Those people don't tend to have much of a background in indoor growing, which is where this law requires you to be,” says Rotundo of Cannabis Systems Inc.

Bill sponsor Ray Rodrigues disagrees.

“Some would argue it is easier to grow marijuana than any other plant. It's not called weed without there being a valid reason to that,” says Representative Rodrigues.

The bill still does not allow for smokable marijuana.

Representative Carey Pigman says, “Breathing in soot, breathing in ash, carries a definite detriment, which we didn't want to extend to medical marijuana.”

Democrats offered a smoking amendment, but it failed.

Representative Evan Jenne says without the inclusion of smoking, lawsuits are guaranteed.

“There will be folks that get an earful that they did not support smokable marijuana,” says Rep. Jenne

The text of the amendment only mentions smoking once, banning smoking in public places.

Rep. Jenne says the language implies smoking is allowed in other contexts.

John Morgan, one of the main backers of amendment 2, has sworn to sue the state if smoking is not in the final version of the bill.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News

June 8, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida legislators are spending their second day of a special session wrangling over money for public schools and medical marijuana.

House Democrats on Thursday wanted to allow the smoking of medical marijuana, saying that's what voters wanted when they approved an amendment last November.

But House Republicans rejected the push and pointed out they are poised to approve a bill that allows vaping of marijuana.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered legislators back to town to boost money for public schools and to set aside more money for his top priorities. But Scott and legislative leaders expanded the agenda of the session to pass a bill that would implement the medical marijuana amendment.

The House and Senate are still at odds over key budget provisions. They have until Friday night to reach a deal.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News

June 7, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Governor Rick Scott issued a proclamation Wednesday to expand the ongoing special session to include medical marijuana.

Voters in November overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment, but the House and the Senate could not agree during this year's regular legislative session about how to carry it out.

Governor Scott called for a special session June 2, but only included issues related to economic-development and education funding.

He issued the expansion for medical marijuana hours after House and Senate leaders confirmed that they had reached an agreement on key issues such as how many retail outlets could be opened by medical-marijuana operators.

“Medical marijuana was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters in 2016, and I believe that it is the role of the Florida Legislature to determine how to best implement this approved constitutional amendment," said Governor Scott. "I am glad that both the Florida Senate and House are moving toward crafting legislation to help patients, and I have added medical marijuana to the call for special session."

The special session started Wednesday afternoon and is scheduled to last through Friday.

By: Associated Press

June 7, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Frustration about the Florida legislature's inability to agree on a framework for an amendment expanding medical marijuana could build if it's not addressed at this week's special session.

Gov. Rick Scott called the session that begins Wednesday because of an ongoing feud over the state budget, but observers expected medical marijuana to be added to the agenda. Legislators haven't been able to agree on how many retail dispensaries a medical marijuana treatment center should be allowed to open and whether cannabis should be subject to sales tax.

The amendment passed by 71 percent of voters in November expands legal use beyond the limited prescriptions for low-strength marijuana allowed under a 2014 law.

Lawmakers could return for another special session if nothing gets resolved this week. The state Department of Health would set the rules for medical marijuana if legislators can't agree on a plan.