Medical Marijuana returns to session




By Kiaira Nixon
Outlook Writer

Florida lawmakers are making their way to the capitol for the 60 day Legislative session of 2016. One bill in particular is being altered to benefit patients and farmers.

Imagine a child suffering from frequent seizures and the only thing that separates the child from treatment is stipulations on a state bill. This is a reality to many parents who have a child with epilepsy or terminal illnesses. In Florida there is an estimated 125,000 children whom suffer from the disease.

In 2014 Gov. Rick Scott approved Charlotte’s Webb, a bill that allows use of medical marijuana to aid those who have cancer or suffer from seizures. Although this bill was passed two years ago patients have yet to receive relief.

State Representative John Wood (R- Winter Haven) is bringing the bill back to life in this year’s session. House Bill 1183 (HB 1183) will expand the number of diseases that will qualify for medical use and increase the limit on the number of farmers. The bill is asking for medical marijuana treatment to include patients with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and any terminal illness.

Farmers will be able to benefit through an expansion. Wood’s bill is a companion to Senate Bill 852 filled by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R- St Petersburg). Sen. Brandes hopes this will replace the existing Charlotte’s Web licensing system. In 2014, the medical marijuana bill states that only Florida nursery owners with businesses in operation of 30 plus years will be able to grow “Charlotte’s Web.” The criteria has limited the amount of farmers from being able to grow the distinct strain.

Originally the Department of Health and Consumer services listed 21 nurseries as of 2014 those nurseries have increased to 39. Out of those 39, only five were approved regionally for licensing, none of them belonging to a farmer of color. A close source to the senator says “The expansion will allow for minority farmers to grow the strain too.” Sen. Brandes commented that this will create “a robust and free-market regulatory system for medical marijuana.”

Rep. Wood states the only difference between the two bills is that HB 1183 “does not support smoking as an appropriate way to consume medicine.” Session began after The State of the State address by Gov. Rick Scott at 11 a.m., Jan. 12.