Medical marijuana bill added to Legislature’s special session

by Dan SweeneyContact Reporter Sun Sentinel

The Florida Legislature appears to have reached a deal on implementing Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Legislation to do so will be considered during the special session that begins today in Tallahassee.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, will file the bill later today. Bradley took a lead role in negotiations between the House and Senate over medical marijuana during the regular session, which ended May 8.

Leaders in both chambers had said a medical marijuana bill would only be added to the special session if a deal was in place. What that deal looks like is still unknown.

Earlier negotiations broke down over disagreements on how many dispensaries each licensed grower in the state would be allowed to operate.

The Senate wanted strict caps of 10 or less. The House wanted no caps at all, and agreed to a much larger limit of 50 to 100 dispensaries per license holder on the last day of the regular session. That wasn’t enough for the Senate, and the deal fell apart.

The cap on dispensaries is a proxy for a larger question about whether the seven current licensed growers in the state will be allowed to maintain their exclusivity in growing marijuana.

A strict cap of just a few dispensaries per license holder would likely mean many more license holders would be required to meet the demand for medical marijuana in the state, with the Florida Department of Health estimating some 500,000 people could qualify for marijuana under the constitutional amendment voters put in place in November.

Exactly what Bradley’s bill says will be revealed later today.

The two chambers had agreed to fund a medical marijuana research center at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and money was included in the budget for it, but that money was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

While Bradley said the bill would increase the number of license holders from the current seven, it’s unknown how many more would be created.

This story will be updated. Check back for more information.