Florida medical marijuana bill dead for the legislative session

By Troy Kinsey and Christie Zizo, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Saturday, May 06, 2017, 2:39 PM EDT

There will be no medical marijuana implementation bill leaving the Florida legislative session. 

  • Florida Legislature fails to compromise on medical marijuana
  • Language on dispensaries, storefronts brought the bill down
  • Dept. of Health not has to implement the amendment by July

The Florida House and Senate failed to reach a deal to implement the medical marijuana amendment that Florida voters overwhelmingly passed last november.

Republican leaders in the Florida House and Senate went back and forth over several issues, from how patients used medical marijuana (vaping, edibles eventually allowed, but no smoking) to whether patients could use it in public. 

In the end, the number of dispensaries and storefronts was the issue that brought the bill down. 

"I felt like we've provided the basis and the groundwork to get this done eventually," said FL Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. "It just isn't going to be this session."

The Florida House sent one more tweak back to the Florida Senate. The bill's sponsor in the House, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, basically told the Senate to take it or leave, and if they did it was on them. 

Action on legislation is over for the regular legislative session, save for the budget, which will be debated and voted on Monday. So any bill that was not passed Friday is dead unless a special session is called.

It's now up to the Florida Dept. of Health to implement the amendment without direction of the Florida Legislature. It has until July to put rules into place. 

However, the department is under Gov. Rick Scott's control. Scott is decidedly anti-medical marijuana, which advocates say doesn't bode well for their case.

The Department of Health held five workshops throughout the state in early February to take input on rules.

Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said they still continue to review public comments while coming up with proposed rules. Litigation is expected over whatever rules the department comes up with, based on its prior rulemaking history.

"The legislature chose political gamesmanship over the will of 71 percent of voters," said Florida for Care Executive Director Ben Pollara. "The House got to poke the Senate in the eye one last time, but the real losers are sick and suffering Floridians."

"You know who else is going to benefit from this? John Morgan," said FL Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando. "I don't know if the Republicans thought about that. Why? Because his main theme, if he decides to run for governor, is that the legislature is full of politicians who cannot be trusted that disrespect the will of the voters. And he's right."

Hundreds of other bills did not make it out of the 60-day legislative session, including bills expanding gambling, allowing first responders suffering from PTSD to get workers' compensation, restricting abortion or expanding gun rights. 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.