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Florida Revises Full-Strength Medical Cannabis Bill for Terminally Ill Patients

A bill that would legalize full-strength medical cannabis for those suffering from terminal illnesses was revived in the Florida legislature Monday.

The bill, which for months was legislatively sidelined, includes a rewrite that sets the number of eligible producers at five.

The House Appropriations Committee approved HB307 by a vote of 9-2, and is headed to the House. If it passes, terminally ill patients will be allowed access to medical cannabis produced by one of the five authorized growers.

In November, as part of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act that passed in 2014, the Department of Health granted licenses to five nurseries that have been operating for at least 30 years and can grow at least 400,000 plants. As of now, they will only be allowed to produce low-THC cannabis.

The House bill that would let these nurseries produce full-strength cannabis is sponsored by Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) and Katie Edwards (D-Plantation).

“If you have a year left to live, you’re going to try whatever you think may be helpful,” said Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa). “Frankly, you’re not going to care whether it’s legal or not.”

Although allowing terminally-ill patients is clearly a step in the right direction for Florida, many argue that limiting the number of licensed growers to five is economically and morally shortsighted.

Cathy Jordan, 65, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, said that although she has been willing to grow her own cannabis illegally, “More than five dispensaries should be available because there are a lot of children that need your [the House Criminal Justice Committee’s] help.”

Jody James, speaking on behalf of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, said that “we want to see patients getting this and my biggest concern is that when you only have five dispensaries, they are going to have a market. They are cornering that market.”

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