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Medical marijuana bill sent back to committee

Thursday, February 25, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: DCMS
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State Capital Briefs (Evening Edition): Wednesday, February 24, 2016
The News Service of Florida

Medical Marijuana bill sent back to committee:
With more than two-dozen amendments stacked up on the bill Wednesday, Senate President Andy Gardiner yanked a medical marijuana measure off the floor and sent it back to a committee for another vetting. The bill (SB 460) would add medical marijuana to a list of experimental treatments available to terminally ill patients. Sen. Rob Bradley, the bill's sponsor, proposed a wide-ranging amendment on Tuesday that would expand the measure to address problems in getting low-THC marijuana --- authorized by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott nearly two years ago --- off the ground. "I think the president would like a committee to sort through the concerns that are contained in those amendments so that, when it reaches the floor, it's in a posture that is where the cake has been baked, so to speak," Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. Under the 2014 law, doctors were supposed to be able to start ordering non-euphoric marijuana in January 2015. But legal challenges have delayed implementation of the law. Last fall, health officials selected five nurseries to be the state's first "dispensing organizations" to grow, process and dispense the low-THC cannabis products, prompting more than a dozen challenges by losing applicants. Hearings in the administrative cases are slated to run through August. Bradley's amendment, which mirrors a House proposal, would allow the five winning applicants to continue as dispensing organizations and would allow the winners of any court or administrative challenges to also have dispensing organization licenses. But a variety of other amendments, filed Tuesday and Wednesday, raised questions about who in the highly competitive marijuana industry would benefit --- or be harmed --- by the changes. "The intention of the legislation is to have the five prevailing dispensing organizations to be able to move forward and get their product to market --- now. The legislation will also provide that if a losing organization successfully establishes, by a court of law or an administrative judge, that they were entitled to a license, they will also get a license," Bradley said. "That is the intention of the legislation. Any amendments that carve out special rules for one particular vendor or another are not amendments that I would support, and I'm not the only member of the caucus that feels that way." The bill is slated to be heard by the Rules Committee on Monday.

Unanimous Senate signs off on 'Rape Kit' bill:
Sending the issue to the House, the Florida Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would set time frames for testing DNA evidence in suspected sexual-assault cases. The bill (SB 636), sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, came after reports last year that Florida has a backlog of thousands of untested "rape kits." Benacquisto's bill, in part, would require law-enforcement agencies to submit rape kits for testing within 30 days of receiving the evidence. Testing would be required within 120 days of the submission of the kits. The House version (HB 179), sponsored by Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, has made it through committees, readying the issue to go to the full House. If the House takes up and passes Benacquisto's bill, the measure would then go to Gov. Rick Scott.

Senate approves needle exchange program:
The Florida Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a proposal that would create a needle-exchange pilot program in Miami-Dade County. The legislation (SB 242) comes as Florida leads the nation in newly diagnosed HIV cases, while Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the top two counties in the country for new HIV cases. The measure, approved by a 37-2 vote, would allow the University of Miami to establish a privately funded program aimed at preventing the spread of diseases by intravenous drug users. The five-year pilot program would allow drug users to exchange dirty needles and syringes for clean needles and syringes. Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, has tried for two years to get the pilot program off the ground. A companion measure (HB 81), sponsored by Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, is ready for a House floor vote.