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Medical marijuana law starts to take shape in Florida Legislature

(MiamiHerald) In recent weeks, the state Senate and the Florida Department of Health released proposals that would mostly keep control of the marijuana market in the hands of a few companies licensed to grow marijuana, process it and sell oils and pills to patients. Leaders in the Florida House, which have not yet released a plan, say they are inclined to do the same. Instead of creating a whole new marijuana system, the Senate and health department proposed adding new patients to an existing, limited program passed two years ago. It allows terminally ill people to use full-strength marijuana and certain patients, including children with severe epilepsy, to use strains of cannabis low in the chemical THC, which causes a high. Rules proposed by the health department ahead of public hearings across the state would allow only the seven currently licensed growers to produce and sell medical marijuana to the larger market. They also want to restrict marijuana’s use to a list of specific medical conditions including cancer and HIV and require that the state Board of Medicine approve any changes, though Amendment 2 gives doctors freedom to recommend the drug when they think it is appropriate. State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, proposed allowing the current growers to run the market. But his bill (SB 406) requires that five additional growers be licensed within six months of there being 250,000 patients in the state. The Florida House is thinking along similar lines, said Health Quality Chairman Cary Pigman, an ER doctor, but with a much more rapid expansion in the number and diversity of growers. “I would imagine we’re going to get to over 100,000 [patients] pretty quickly,” Pigman, R-Avon Park, said. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand, and we’re going to see that expand pretty rapidly.” So far, neither the state nor the Legislature has show interest in allowing businesses to specialize in growing, producing marijuana products or selling.

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