TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Legislature is beginning the process of figuring out how to implement Amendment 2, which allows for the legalization of medical marijuana.
The Senate’s Health Policy Committee held a workshop Tuesday where a Department of Health official, one the campaign directors behind the Amendment’s passage, was among the speakers along with the head of the state’s sheriffs association.
Ben Pollara of Florida for Care pointed out that all but two counties voted above the 60 percent needed for passage and that they were prepared to partner with the legislature and Department of Health on the proper framework.
Amendment 2 was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters on Election Day. It takes effect on Jan. 3 and will allow higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments once a new set of rules are adopted and implemented.
The state legislature and Department of Health have six months to revise current rules and must implement them within nine months.
The current law — which was approved by the state legislature in 2014 — allows non-smoked, low-THC pot for patients with cancer or ailments that cause chronic seizures or severe spasms. It was expanded in March to allow patients with terminal conditions access to higher strength cannabis.
Pollara said it is important that there should be enough local regulation and control because of the size of the state.
“It makes a lot of sense to give locals a great degree of control,” Pollara said. “I live in Coral Gables and work in Miami Beach. They are separated by 10 miles but they are two different communities. We are geographically diverse and putting a band aid solution on the entire state is not practical.”
Pollara also encouraged the senate to not look at merely configuring current laws into the confines of the amendment but to take a more broad-minded approach.
Christian Bax, the director of the state’s Office of Compassionate Use, said that four of the six licensed organizations have begun distributing to patients statewide with the other two expected to come on line next month. The state registry currently has 240 physicians and 1,300 registered patients but Bax anticipates a significant increase once the amendment is implemented.
A study released last week by Arcview Market Research and New Frontier Data showed that Florida is on track to log more than $1 billion in medical marijuana sales by 2019.
Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, who represents the Florida Sheriffs Association, is hoping the state can mandate tamper proof identification cards or that there can be some sort of designation on the driver’s license to show that a person is a registered user.
Dr. Jessica Spencer, who led the efforts against Amendment 2, also spoke at the meeting and urged lawmakers to their best when upholding the amendment, especially when it comes to putting laws in place to ban pot candy.
The House and Senate health committees will have meetings in January and February before the 2017 legislative session begins on March 7.
By JOE REEDY, Associated Press
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