Sunday, October 1, 2023

Fail: Florida Medical Marijuana Bill Bans Smoking, Discourages Doctors From Participating

The Florida Legislature is on a mission to let everyone in the state know that, despite a large majority of the voters passing an amendment in the election last November for legal Florida medical marijuana, the suits are in complete control of how the law shakes out.

Earlier this week, Florida’s House of Representatives put its seal of approval on a piece of legislation that would finally allow the state’s newly legal medical marijuana market to take shape.

However, the proposal that lawmakers have deemed appropriate to accomplish this matter (HB 1397) is designed to give only those patients suffering from a “debilitating disease,” such as cancer and epilepsy, access to the herb. It also bans the consumption of smokeable marijuana, forcing patients into a situation where they will have to purchase expensive edible products or continue to frequent the black market.

Ben Pollara, policy director for United For Care, the organization responsible for bringing the medical marijuana amendment to the voters, told the Miami New Times that while the legislature has “made significant improvements” to their vision of Florida’s medical marijuana law, it “is still a fatally flawed piece of legislation.”

Although the latest limitations are discouraging, they have nothing on one particular snag tucked inside the bill that will undoubtedly ensure that patients are not accessing the herb as easily as originally envisioned. That’s because the language of the bill forces doctors to “prescribe” medical marijuana rather than issue “recommendations,” a battle of semantics that is destined to keep most doctors far away from the program.

Since anything derived from the cannabis plant remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, doctors can get into some serious trouble if they “prescribe” marijuana. However, the First Amendment protects their right to offer patient recommendations.

But as long as the law calls for prescription marijuana, Pollara says patients will be pushed into visiting “the scummiest pill-mill docs” to obtain a pass to use legal weed.

All of this has been done, he says, as an act of “willful ignorance” on the part of legislative forces to prevent as many people as possible from gaining access to the program.

The bill is now on its way to the state Senate, where there is hope that some reasonable revisions will be made. But time is of the essence. As of Wednesday, the State Legislature only has three days before the end of the legislative session. If the bill fails to pass during that time, the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana will be delayed even further.

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