TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – After a lengthy discussion about problems with a 2014 cannabis law, a Senate committee has approved a bill that would allow patients with terminal illnesses to have access to medical marijuana.
The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee’s vote on the bill, which was filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, clears the way for the issue to go to the Senate floor. The bill would expand a 2015 law, known as the “Right to Try Act,” which allows terminally ill patients to have access to experimental drugs that have not been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Most of Thursday’s debate focused on the state’s problems in carrying out a 2014 law that allowed limited types of non-euphoric cannabis for patients such as children with severe forms of epilepsy. The substances remain unavailable, at least in part because of legal fights about the selection of five nurseries to receive licenses to cultivate, process and distribute the cannabis.
The 2014 law included the five-nursery limit, with one licensee in each of five regions of the state.
Senators Jeff Clemens and Joseph Abruzzo proposed amendments Thursday to Bradley’s bill that could have moved away from the regulatory structure set up in the 2014 law.
As an example, Clemens proposed an amendment that would have allowed 30 nurseries to be selected as so-called “dispensing organizations.” Clemens argued that the 2014 law had created five “regional state monopolies” and that legal battling over the handful of licenses had led to delays in making the low-THC marijuana available to patients.
But the amendments were rejected in voice votes.
Sen. Gwen Margolis said there might be a time in the future when the state should allow 30 nurseries to be involved, but the state is “not there yet” as it continues to struggle carrying out the law with the smaller number of nurseries.
“My fear is that by adding a wrench in this, we’re going to go back to having bureaucratic hurdles,” committee Chairwoman Anitere Flores said while addressing an amendment proposed by Abruzzo.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.