Earlier this week, supporters for medical marijuana in Florida gathered at the state’s capitol to encourage lawmakers to pass meaningful marijuana reform. The rally was prompted by the near victory of medical marijuana initiative Amendment 2, which garnered 58 percent of the vote in 2014, but failed to garner the 60 percent necessary for a constitutional amendment.
However, it is doubtful that lawmakers will listen to the voices of those that attended the rally or the millions of Florida residents that they represent.
Earlier this legislative session, Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes filed a bill with the state legislature to expand the state’s limited medical marijuana program to include high THC marijuana. In addition, the bill would expand the number of qualifying conditions to include chronic pain and diseases like HIV, ALS and Crohn’s disease.
Shortly thereafter, the Florida Sherriffs Association came out against the bill and the organization offered its own version of a medical marijuana law. Included in the law would be a ban on smokeable marijuana and the ability to recommend marijuana for pain or nausea.
Taking a cue from Florida’s sheriffs, instead of the people, state Rep. Greg Steube filed a medical marijuana bill which conformed to the FSA’s vision for Florida’s medical marijuana system. This comes as no surprise, given the fact that Steube’s father is Brad Steube, Manatee County sheriff and FSA member.
“If law enforcement is adamantly opposed to what we are doing, I don’t think that is an appropriate avenue to take,” Steube told the Herald Tribune. “I don’t want to make their jobs more difficult by what we are doing.” Of course he doesn’t—most people don’t want to disappoint their father.
If that is not disillusioning enough, signs seem to indicate that neither bills will receive the attention they deserve. Both bills will have to go through the Senate Regulated Industries Committee first in order to get to the floor of the legislatre; according to the Jacksonville Business Journal, chairman Rob Bradley is not a fan of either bill.
“I’m of the school of thought that we need to allow this issue to naturally unfold by making sure that we crawl before we walk and walk before we run,” Bradley said. “I want to see 1030 (last year’s measure) get implemented. And then let’s see what works and what doesn’t with regard to the bill that we’ve already passed.”
Translation: Don’t expect the legislature to act on marijuana reform any time soon.
It is incredibly frustrating for medical marijuana patients, and the majority of Floridians, that the legislature is dragging their feet on the issue.
Despite what law enforcement or the politicians that speak for them may think, the majority of Floridians want, and voted for, a broad-based medical marijuana law that allows doctors, not politicians or sheriffs, to make the medical decisions.
If legislators continue to listen to their own voices and not to the people of Florida, not only will voters abandon them, but John Morgan and company will still pursue a medical marijuana amendment in 2016. Legislators have the opportunity to do something good; and like usual, they are squandering it.
While nothing is written in stone, one thing is for sure, if the legislature doesn’t act on medical marijuana reform, the people of Florida will.