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Florida Will Be The Next State To Legalize MMJ

Florida Will Be The Next State To Legalize MMJ

After years of tension between the states and the federal government, Congress quietly voted in December to end federal drug raids on medical marijuana facilities in states where MMJ has been legalized.  This was an important step in the process to legalizing medical marijuana nationwide.

Twenty three states and DC have already legalized MMJ and/or recreataional marijuana, with another 13 states currently hammering out ballot measures for the upcoming elections.  Here is why Florida is poised to be state number 24.

There Is Already A Law on The Books

On June 16, 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014” (Senate Bill 1030) into law.  This Act allows for low-THC strains of Cannabis such as Charlotte’s Web to be prescribed by certain physicians and to be used by patients only for certain seizure conditions for which there is no effective alternative treatment.

While this law was passed last summer, implementation has been mired in red tape.  Growers and distributors have not yet been established.  In fact, the Marijuana Policy Project does not, at this time, consider Florida to be a medical marijuana state.

A State Constitutional Amendment Nearly Passed in 2014

The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2, was narrowly defeated on November 4, 2014.  The measure required 60% voter approval but just missed the mark with 58% of the vote

Opponents of the amendment called it de facto legalization of marijuana.  They pointed out various loopholes that would have allowed people access to cannabis who would not necessarily be using it for medical purposes, and others such as teenagers and drug dealers who would be able to gain access to marijuana without a prescription.

With such a small margin of defeat, proponents of a constitutional amendment are already working to get another initiative on the ballot.  Attorney John Morgan, the driving force behind the original state constitutional amendment, is already planning how to revise the amendment for the next election.

Supporters Are Already Eyeing the 2016 Election

Less than two months into the new year, supporters of a medical marijuana amendment in Florida have already come out swinging.  Two bills have been introduced in the state legislature with regard to MMJ.

Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes

Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes, image via TampaBay.com

In the Senate, SB 528 was filed by Senator Jeff Brandes (R) on January 26, 2015.  The bill is an act that would allow for the possession and use of medical-grade marijuana by designated users for specific ailments.  This bill was Referred to Regulated Industries, Health Policy, and Appropriations Committees on February 3, 2015.

greg steube

Republican State Senator Greg Steube, image via Brandenton.com

In the House, HB 683 was filed by Representative Greg Steube (R) on February 10, 2015.  This bill also allows for the possession and use of medical-grade marijuana by designated users.  The major differences between this bill and the senate bill are that there is clarification that driving under the influence would be prohibited, and that there would be no restrictions on health insurance coverage related to MMJ.

The political action committee (PAC) United for Care (also known as People United for Medical Marijuana) has also begun their petition drive to get a medical marijuana initiative back on the ballot in 2016.

Though prior legislation faced harsh criticism, each step has proved to be a learning process.  With critical loopholes being closed and specific guidelines being set forth, Florida stands a great chance of passing MMJ legislation in the near future.

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