On Friday, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed medical marijuana regulation legislation into law. The legislature passed SB 8A in a special session after the regular session ended without a bill to implement Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana and was supported by 71% of voters last year.
The new law outlines licensing for 10 new companies as growers by October, which would increase the statewide total to 17. The law also allows patients, with a doctor’s recommendation, to use medical marijuana in the form of pills, oils, and edibles. Patients may engage in vaping, but unfortunately, the law does ban smoking.
Additionally, the Department of Health is simultaneously working to regulate the amendment. Spokeswoman Mara Gambineri says the department is crafting rules to comply with SB 8A, “which provides a framework for patients to access marijuana safely.”
Amendment 2 gives health officials until July 3 to craft rules to regulate the amendment and until October 3 to implement those rules.
On Thursday, the Florida House voted 111-7 in support of a bill that will exempt a limited group of very sick people from criminal laws for using marijuana that is low in THC and high in CBD if certain requirements are met. Gov. Rick Scott has stated that he’ll sign the bill if the Senate agrees to the House version today. Please email your lawmakers today and thank them for recognizing marijuana’s medical benefits.
The bill allows patients with cancer and conditions that result in chronic seizures or severe muscle spasms to use marijuana that contains 0.8% THC or lower and 10% CBD or higher. Patients can administer the medicine via pills, oils, or vaporization. Smoking is prohibited. The bill also requires the state to register five dispensing businesses, spread out across the state, to grow and dispense the medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the bill places heavy burdens on physicians who wish to recommend marijuana to their patients, arguably forcing them to violate federal laws in order to do so.
Florida took a small step forward this year, but the law is so incomplete that MPP will not be counting it as a “medical marijuana state.” Voters will have an opportunity to enact a comprehensive, workable medical marijuana law by voting "yes" on Amendment Two this November.
The latest round of Battleground polls by George Washington University found respondents (nationally) would be 40% “much more likely” to visit the voting booth if marijuana’s legalization status was on the ballot. Thirty percent of respondents would be “somewhat” more likely as well. This brings the numbers up to a total of about 70% of voters who would be more likely to vote this fall if marijuana was in question.
Considering midterm elections have historically had low voter turnout, politicians are keeping a watchful eye on those states that have marijuana policy initiatives in the upcoming election. The results are promising for Democrats, because they tend to have a rougher time than Republicans in getting voters out in non-presidential election years.
The study goes on to show that 76 percent of liberals said they would be more likely to vote if marijuana was on the ballot, compared to a 64 percent for conservatives and 61 percent for moderates.
For instance, in Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s reelection campaign says the “spillover effect” from high voter turnout because of the medical marijuana ballot question threatens to weigh the scales against him. In fact, the state’s Republicans feel so threatened that they have filed a legal challenge to keep the referendum off the ballot.
“It’s an issue that the Democrats can use to pump up the youth vote,” said Alex Patton, a Republican political consultant and pollster based in Gainesville, Florida. “The politics of it are dangerous for the GOP.”
What’s older than Florida’s senior population? The Florida Legislature’s mindset when it comes to marijuana.
Last Friday, the state Senate voted 31-2 in favor of a bill that would ban the sale of assorted pipes, bongs, and hookahs. House Bill 49 passed in the House days earlier by a vote of 112-3.
Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), one of the few dissenting voices in the Senate, argued that marijuana is far safer than other drugs and should be allowed under strict regulation.
The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. If signed, vendors will be criminalized, the sale of various pipes will become a first-degree misdemeanor, and any subsequent violation will jump to a third-degree felony.
Out-of-touch lawmakers don’t seem to realize that House Bill 49 will do nothing to curb marijuana use. In their quest to harass responsible marijuana users, the Florida Legislature has only harmed legitimate business people.
Earlier today, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that temporarily halted the enforcement of a Florida law requiring that all welfare recipients be drug tested in order to receive benefits.
We have addressed this issue in the past on this blog, and it is good to see the 11th Circuit supporting the lower court’s decision. Drug testing in this fashion is an invasion of privacy, and in most cases ends up costing the taxpayers far more than is saved by denying benefits to the very few people who test positive.
According to a recent poll conducted by Hamilton Campaigns on behalf of People United for Medical Marijuana, 70% of Florida voters support a plan to mend the state constitution to allow the medical use of marijuana.
Those are great numbers, but analysts say that this level of support could actually have an impact on the gubernatorial race in Florida if it makes the ballot in 2014!
From the Miami Herald:
“Supporters of the proposed amendment are less certain to cast ballots in the 2014 governor’s race,” David Beattie, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s pollster, wrote in an analysis of the poll of 600 registered voters taken Jan. 30-Feb. 3 by his firm, Hamilton Campaigns.
If it made the ballot, the measure would draw even more attention to Florida’s nationally watched 2014 election in which Gov. Rick Scott will fight for his political life.
“The proposal to allow the medical use of marijuana could provide a message contrast in the Governor’s race,” Beattie wrote, “heightening its effectiveness as a turnout mechanism.”
Politicians should start to take notice of the effect marijuana bills can have on elections. As popular support for marijuana reform grows, so will the electoral chances of candidates that get in front of this issue.
I just returned to D.C. from a conference in Palm Beach, where I briefly spoke with Gov. Rick Scott (R) about medical marijuana.
When I told him I was representing the Marijuana Policy Project, he responded by saying that he had received only one communication about medical marijuana during these first 14 months of his governorship. (It's likely that he meant to say that he had spoken with only one constituent personally, as opposed to having received only one email message or one phone call from Florida constituents.)
In any case, his comment struck me as odd, because Floridians have consistently been more active via MPP's website than MPP's supporters in literally any other state. This has impressed me, because Florida is only the fourth most populous state, and Florida usually has almost no marijuana-related legislative activity in Tallahassee. So you'd think that Californians or New Yorkers would be more active than Floridians, but this hasn't been the case.
I have no reason to believe that Gov. Scott was trying to fib, because there was no particular advantage or disadvantage to his taking a position on medical marijuana. Indeed, he wasn't even taking a position on the issue.
But I'd like to view my conversation with the governor as a challenge to anyone in Florida who hasn't already called or emailed Gov. Scott to say they'd like him to support medical marijuana legislation in Tallahassee. So, if you haven't already done so, would you please call or email him?
If you live in Florida, you have a greater ability to influence his thinking than I do. And – if you do contact his office – please be polite, because I have the impression that he's open-minded on our issue, at least in the long run.