Lawmakers Criticize Medical Marijuana Delay

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By: Mike Vasilinda
October 6, 2015

TALLAHASSEE -- The state Department of Health was unable to provide lawmakers with a timeline today as to when low THC marijuana will be available to patients. The authorizing legislation was passed almost 18 months ago, but the failure to deliver the medicine is frustrating lawmakers.

Five licenses to grow medical marijuana were supposed to be issued by the Department of Health in January. Legal challenges delayed the licensing. 28 growers eventually applied, but Nicole Geary, the general Counsel for the Department of Health, was unable to provide lawmakers with a clue as to when those 5 licensees would be chosen.

“The Department is very mindful of the need to move forward as quickly as possible” said Geary.

Her answers did not sit well. Rep. Greg Stube (R-Sarasota) questioned why the process was taking so long. “I mean, it’s been almost two years since this bill was passed. And we still don’t have any restitution for these children that are trying to get this drug that the legislature recognizes is something that is needed for the state of Florida,” said Stube.

Fewer than 50 doctors have taken a course and registered to prescribe low THC marijuana. We spoke with Jeff Scott from the Florida Medical Association.

“That act is still technically illegal under Federal law, so that’s s definite concern for physicians in the state. Absolutely,” Scott said.

Greg Stube is also the sponsor of an expanded medical marijuana bill that didn’t get a hearing last year. The delay may change that. “I think it shows there needs to be a very robust regulatory scheme in place in the statute to give very clear guidance to the department on how the process is supposed to take place,” Stube told reporters afterward.

Frustration continues to build. So much so, that the two original sponsors of the low THC marijuana bill plan to announce later this week that they are filing new legislation.

The new legislation is likely to expand who qualifies for medical pot. It is also likely to allow increased dosages of THC.

Surgeon General John Armstrong, who heads the Department of Health, was originally an opponent of the low THC legislation, but no one is publicly accusing Armstrong of slow walking the issuance of licenses.

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