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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate leaders send medical pot proposal ready for floor vote back to committee



Senate leaders on Wednesday sent a medical marijuana bill ready for consideration by the chamber back to the Rules Committee for another hearing.

Rules chairman Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, moved that the bill (SB 460) have another hearing, which is unusual after a piece of legislation has been put on the agenda for a floor session. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet next Monday afternoon.

Simmons did not give a reason, but the bill drew more than 30 proposed amendments, including one by sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, that would turn it from a two-page bill to a 27-page bill. 

The bill was intended to expand medical marijuana laws to make the full-strength drug available to terminal patients. In the process, it was expanded in the House to include new rules surrounding existing dispensaries for low-THC cannabis and to allow for the number of dispensaries to increase after 250,000 patients are using medical marijuana.

Right now, there are five growers licensed by the Department of Health, although several groups have voiced concern that the process was not sufficiently open to some people, particularly minorities. Others have argued that the limited number of growers equates to a monopoly and that the 250,000-patient threshold for expansion would be too high.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, warned senators Tuesday that if the bill is changed too dramatically, he would send it back for another committee hearing.

Bradley said Wednesday that he did not expect his amendment, which brings the legislation closer into line with the House version, to necessitate another hearing.

"I think it will go up today," Bradley said earlier Wednesday, before Senate leaders moved the bill back to committee, "and I think that we're going to have a bill that is in a posture that the Senate can pass."

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 4:21pm]


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