A new bill looking to legalize medical marijuana has been filed for the upcoming legislative session. Rep. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, has introduced the Florida Medical Marijuana Act, which would authorize a doctor to use medicinal marijuana to treat patients afflicted with specific illnesses. Among the ailments listed would be cancer, epilepsy, AIDS, ALS, Crohn's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
According to the proposed bill, there would be a license for cultivation and processing medical marijuana and another for selling it. The bill would also allow county commissioners to decided where medical marijuana could be sold.
The bill is being introduced just weeks after United for Care launched another petition drive to get medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.
And United for Care has come out and publicly applauded the bill.
"Senate Bill 528 is a very good start and we believe one that would serve as a huge step forward for Florida's suffering patients and their families," Elias Egozi, state director for United for Care, said in a statement. "This bill proves that the massive support we received in the last election -- 58 percent of voters -- plus our quick work to bring the petition back for 2016 is getting recognized by reasonable legislators like Senator Brandes."
What stands out most in the proposed bill is that it gets to specifics, something opponents to medical marijuana have used as a reason for not legalizing it.
Where opponents of medical marijuana claimed that Amendment 2 -- which was the provision to legalize medical marijuana that fell short in November -- was fraught with loopholes that would allow people to get their hands on marijuana, even if they really weren't stricken with anything serious.
But Brandes' bill lists specifically what medical marijuana would treat.
"Any physical medical condition or treatment for a medical condition which chronically produces the following qualifying symptoms: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; persistent seizures; severe and persistent nausea; severe and persistent muscle spasms; severe and persistent pain," the bill states.
Aside from listing the ailments medical marijuana would be prescribed for, the bill would also require growers to pay for licensing fee. The fee itself would be $100,000 with a $5 million bond. After that, growers would have to have their weed tested by an independent lab before it could be distributed for sale.
On top of that, anyone who wants to be a medical marijuana retailer will have to dish out $10,000 for a license, according to the bill.
"We are very excited to see Sen. Brandes file this important piece of legislation. Sen. Brandes has taken a courageous step in service of making the voice of Floridians heard on this issue," said Florida for Care Executive Director Ben Pollara in his own statement.
A previous bill that legalized so called Charlotte's Web was passed last year and signed into law. That law merely legalized certain strains of marijuana that are high in cannabidiol (CBD) but low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces a high.
"While [Charlotte's Web] was monumental in that our legislature -- for the first time -- recognized marijuana as medicine, it simply did not help all sick and suffering Floridians in the way that Sen. Brandes' bill would, if passed," said Dan Rogers, director of legislative affairs for Florida for Care.