The Florida House of Representatives cut short its legislative session by three days on Tuesday, meaning that any hope of getting any kind of medical marijuana initiative passed will have to wait until 2016.
A couple of medical marijuana bills had been introduced in the current session, including HB 683, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, that called for a nonsmokable form of medical marijuana that would have been prescribed to patients suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS, ALS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, or a terminal illness.
In late January, Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced the Florida Medical Marijuana Act, which would have authorized a doctor to use medicinal marijuana to treat patients afflicted with similar diseases. Brandes had also introduced a bill with Sen. Bob Bradley that would have helped patients with debilitating diseases get quicker access to a form of medical marijuana that was low in THC.
Last week, Brandes conceded that his initiative was as good as dead for the current session. He expressed a desire to go back to the drawing board over the summer to get more info from experts and rehash the initiative for next time around.
But the House's decision to shut things down three days before it was scheduled to do so effectively killed any and all medical marijuana bills for this session. The House cited the ongoing debate over health-care expansion as the reason for closing up shop.
“Today the people we elected to represent us in Tallahassee literally abdicated their responsibility to Floridians," said United for Care Campaign Manager Ben Pollara, via a statement. "The House of Representatives decided to simply quit work, three days before the end of session, and with that, medical marijuana legislation is dead in Tallahassee.
“Hundreds of thousands of patients across this state are sick, suffering, and dying, but the House simply quit," Pollara added. "Nearly 3.4 million Floridians voted 'yes' for medical marijuana, but the House simply quit. Despite courageous leadership from senators and representatives in both houses and both parties, Tallahassee has failed us again."
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The end of medical marijuana legislation is the second blow to getting medical weed legalized in Florida since November, when the Amendment 2 initiative fell 2 percentage points short of passing.
It was as close as Florida has ever come to joining 23 other states and Washington, D.C., in having some form of legalized marijuana. But groups like United for Care saw the upswing in the polls as a good sign. In fact, more people voted for legalized marijuana in Florida than voted for Rick Scott for reelection.
As a result, the group began an online petition to get the initiative back on the ballot for 2016. And now, it looks like that's the route that is going to have to be taken.
"Medical marijuana will be on the ballot in 2016, and the voters will pass what the legislature failed to,” Pollara says.