Florida Gov. Rick Scott Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill

On Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill expanding his state’s Right to Try Act which will include letting terminally ill patients use medical marijuana during their last days.

According to Saint Peters Blog, the bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach), will allow licensed dispensing organizations to grow and distribute medical marijuana from the whole plant. They will also have access to other “experimental drugs” that aren’t approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bill was previously approved by the Senate on March 7, with a 28-11 vote, and the house passed it on a 99-16 vote the prior week, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

Gaetz commented on Twitter by saying that Scott had “heart & compassion” for signing the bill. However, Orlando Weekly reported that Rick Scott himself didn’t comment on the medical marijuana bill (HB 307).

“We can finally deliver on the promise we made to those suffering families two years ago. The delays are over,” said Bradley. “I appreciate Governor Scott’s support of the bill, and his Staff’s help in making the bill better as it moved through the process.”

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Other aspects of the bill include addressing the long-term issues of carrying out a 2014 cannabis law that was billed mostly as a way to help children who suffered severe forms of epilepsy, according to Orlando Weekly. Initially, that law wanted to make forms of cannabis available that couldn’t get patients high, but numerous legal challenges and administrative issues have prevented patients from being unable to obtain that drug.

“Two years later, not one child in the state of Florida has received help from that law we passed in 2014,” said Rob Bradley earlier this month to the senate.

Bradley continued, “And that makes me angry and it makes me embarrassed. And it’s time to end it.”

However, the new bill does have its critics. Rick Scott himself had initially been “iffy” on the measure when it was voted on in the Senate earlier this month, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) felt that the bill will add to what he calls “a state sanctioned drug cartel.”

Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) called the provision “useless” because 23 states that allow medical marijuana haven’t given treatment to 250,000 patients, as Florida wants to see for its patients. Clemens also felt the 2014 bill was more beneficial to businesses looking to make profits, rather than helping patients.

“While the new provisions are now law, state lawmakers could make more tweaks in 2017 to the state law,” said Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Saint PetersBlog.

Foerster also reported that there’s a constitutional amendment to make medical marijuana available for more Floridians up for a vote in November. This has seen widespread support and the backers are optimistic about the measure being passed.

On top of the medical marijuana bill, Rick Scott signed 34 other bills into law on Thursday according to the Tampa Bay Times. Some of those bills include making it legal for residents to carry concealed slungshots, requiring police to have training protocols and policies put in place for using body cameras, and making Medicaid users’ dental coverage separate from their medical care.

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Arguably, the most controversial bill passed this week by Rick Scott was the plan to cut taxpayer funding to health clinics that provide abortions, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

“As a result of this bill, thousands of people across Florida may no longer be able to access essential reproductive health care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams, “said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, who described the measure as “a cruel bill.”

However, Rick Scott also received praise for the bill from John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council, who claimed that more inspections of these clinics will provide better care to women and protect their health. Scott had previously ordered Planned Parenthood branches all over Florida to be inspected in the wake of controversial videos released by anti-abortion groups allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating over fetal tissue being transferred.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)