Medical marijuana bill bans smoking, edibles

By Christie Zizo, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 11:32 AM EDT

A Florida House committee passed a bill to implement Florida's medical marijuana constitutional amendment Tuesday. But pot advocates are already decrying the bill's restrictive nature.

HB 1397 is the only bill in the Florida House to implement the amendment, which was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters last year.

The bill bans smoking the medical marijuana and bans pot edibles. It also restricts vaping to people with terminal illnesses.

The bill also limits the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state to the seven currently registered. More dispensaries would be allowed as more people register with the medical marijuana registry.

State Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, believes the bill faithfully implements Amendment 2. 

But pro-pot groups feel the bill is too restrictive. Ben Pollara from United for Care, the group that helped get Amendment 2 passed, issued a statement earlier this month:

"I believe Leader Rodrigues was sincere and thoughtful in his approach and authorship of this law, but I can't help but be dismayed by the House proposal. The bill begins by moving backwards in many ways critical to the letter and spirit of the constitution, and in some cases, the existing low-THC Cannabis statute.

"In addition to banning smokable and edible marijuana products, HB 1397 bans the vaporization of marijuana oils, except for terminal patients. That is a further restriction than what even the current law allows.

"HB 1397 also offers only a modest expansion of the marketplace for medical marijuana treatment centers and again takes a step backwards in doing so. Forget about government not being in the business of picking winners and losers, HB 1397 literally picks losers in the issuance of the first tranche of new licenses proposed in the legislation. The bill calls for the first five licenses issued to be awarded to applicants who previously applied for, but failed to win, a license under the current law."

There are five related bills in the Florida Senate.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.