In a stunning rebuke to the will of the people, Florida lawmakers are attempting to butcher the voter-approved medical cannabis initiative that passed in November 2016 with 71 percent approval. The Florida House Health Quality Subcommittee, being compelled to produce a bill, voted 14 to 1 to advance House Bill 1397, which now moves to House Appropriations Committee.
Critics were quick to point out the highly restrictive nature of this bill, which is a reflection of the many lawmakers on the panel openly opposed to medical cannabis.
The bill would prohibit the smoking of medical cannabis and cannabis products, and would ban edible products entirely. Patients could not vape medical cannabis unless they are terminally ill, leaving them to rely on topicals and pills. The bill would maintain a requirement that patients and doctors must have a 3-month relationship before medical cannabis can be prescribed.
The bill would also direct the Department of Health to grant far fewer licenses to grow, process and distribute medical cannabis – in stark contrast to a Senate proposal that would nearly quadruple the current number of licensed producers.
"This proposal undermines and contradicts the Constitution, the will of 71 percent of Floridians, and would impose significant, arbitrary barriers to patient access," said Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, which spearheaded the constitutional amendment.
Pollara summed up the true nature of the bill, saying it “was written for the less than 29 percent who voted 'no' rather than the over 71 percent who voted 'yes'."
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House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the shameful proposal, is defending it as a “measured approach.” Rodrigues has received campaign donations from Big Pharma groups, such as the Florida Medical Association which strongly opposed Florida Amendment 2 for medical cannabis. He has also received donations from alcohol and tobacco groups, who stand to lose profits if cannabis becomes more widely used.
Rodrigues said he is willing to compromise on a final bill, but the will of his corporate donors appears to hold far more sway than the will of the voters.
Fear-mongering propaganda groups, including Drug Free America and Save Our Society from Drugs, praised the bill and are throwing their support behind it. Calvina Fay, executive director or Drug Free America, expressed her pleasure to the House panel that the proposal “has incorporated many of our recommendations.”
While the Sunshine State’s voting populace is awake to the truth about cannabis and its healing powers, authorities appear to be firmly in the grip of Reefer Madness. Thirty-six states now have medical and/or recreational cannabis laws. The wondrous ability of cannabis to heal a variety of ailments – without the harmful side-effects of pharma drugs – is no longer in dispute.
Other states around the country are embracing cannabis decriminalization, recognizing that people have the right to access the medicine that works for them. They also recognize the economic opportunity that comes with medical cannabis.
The drug war is crumbling under the advancement of science and reason, but there are strong forces in Florida that seek to keep it in place.
If you live in Florida, contact your representative and urge him or her to vote no on House Bill 1397.