In the first big step toward agreement on the issue in Tallahassee, the Florida House is expected to adopt sweeping changes to its medical marijuana proposal Friday.
New language (HB 1397) released Wednesday afternoon by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, includes a number of changes pushed by advocates who came to public hearings:
* Patients with chronic, nonmalignant pain would qualify for medical marijuana.
* Doctors would not need a 90-day relationship with patients before they recommend the drug.
* Edibles and vaping would be allowed.
The language would maintain the House's slower ramp-up of licenses, granting licenses immediately to the seven growers under Florida's existing, limited medical cannabis program as well as an additional license to a black farmer. Then, the next licenses would kick in at 150,000 patients and 200,000 pateints.
It also maintains a strong role for doctors in deciding how much cannabis their patients can use and how they should consume it, which has caused some concern in the medical community. Doctors worry that if medical marijuana in Florida functions too much like drug prescribing, they could be targeted by federal regulators. Marijuana may be legal for some patients here, but it is still a Schedule I drug under Federal law.
Final Senate language has not yet been released, but it is expected that that chamber will make changes that move toward the House's position when it considers the legislation, likely early next week.