One Florida lawmaker hopes to legalize a restricted medical marijuana program by way of the state legislature in 2016, before a group of cannabis advocates collectively known as United for Care manages to pass a full-scale initiative tentatively slated for the next presidential election. State Representative Greg Steube introduced an amended version of a previous bill last week aimed at strengthening the state’s current Charlotte’s Web-only law by establishing yet another low-THC program designed to serve more patients.
Steube’s bill seeks to increase the number of growers, as well as expanding the qualified conditions to include HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and any terminal illness. The current proposal would not allow any of these patients to smoke cannabis.
As it stands, only cancer patients and people suffering from seizure disorders qualify for access. However, none of those patients have been able to take advantage of the program since it was approved by Governor Rick Scott.
Unfortunately, since the state passed its extremely restricted medical marijuana law that only allows 5 organizations to cultivate Charlotte’s Web for a limited number of seriously ill patients, lawsuits seeded in racism and cartel-like ideologies have prevented the program from being functional in any way.
Therefore, while the concept of dragging the issue back into the state legislature for a much-needed overhaul is to be commended, it should be noted that a similar version of the bill was ripped to pieces earlier this year by the same forces still running the show – a pretty good indicator that the majority of the state lawmakers are not quite cannabis ready.
Nevertheless, Steube believes that voters are not the ones who should get to decide on the issue of medical marijuana and that it is an issue that is best worked out by the same lawmakers that have managed to mess up the affairs pertaining to the deal with Charlotte’s Web.
“It belongs in the legislature, where if there’s changes that need to be made, we can come back every year and make tweaks,” Steube told The Sun Sentinel.
Organizers with United for Care, the organization currently working to legalize a full-blown medical marijuana program for the state, say they are not confident in the state legislature’s willingness to approve medical marijuana and feel it is entirely up to the voters to ensure a comprehensive plan is put into place in November of next year.
In 2014, United for Care’s Amendment 2 narrowly missed becoming law after 58 out of the required 60 percent of the voters cast a favorable ballot for the measure. Reports indicate that the group has already managed to get a jump-start of the campaign in comparison to the year before the 2014 election, already securing around half the necessary 600,000 voter signatures – roughly 250,000 signatures more than the group collected before August 2013. Reports predict they will have the signatures ready to turn in to the state before Christmas.
Yet, Steube believes that with the Charlotte’s Web model already in place, his legislation aimed at souping up the existing law will likely get some action in the next session.
United for Care argues that while Steude’s support on this issue has been great, there is no chance the state legislature is going to move on cannabis reform without extreme measures.
Do you think Florida should have more lenient regulations for their medical marijuana program? Share your opinion in the comments.