Florida Bills Legalizing Medical Marijuana for Terminal Patients Pass Committees

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (Nov. 25, 2015) – Two bills that would allow terminally ill patients access to medicinal marijuana, further thwarting in effect federal prohibition of cannabis, passed unanimously out of committees Tuesday. The legislation expands on a recently passed “right to try” law that effectively blocks in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that prevent terminally-ill patients from accessing experimental treatments.

Senate Bill 460 (SB460) was filed by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) last month. The bill expands upon the ‘Right to Try’ law already on the books to ensure safe access to medical marijuana for terminal patients.

SB460 would allow the distribution of “[marijuana] that is manufactured and sold by a dispensing organization” to “an eligible patient and the eligible patient’s legal representative… for the patient’s medical use.”

If SB460 becomes law, Florida will join more than two-dozen states ignoring the federal prohibition of marijuana by allowing its use for medicinal purposes.

The bill passed out of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice; Fiscal Policy by a 7-0 vote. It now moves on to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice for further considerations.

A companion bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Goetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) (HB307), also cleared a House committee on the same day. The bill passed the Criminal Justice Subcommittee 9-4 with some amendments. The amendments clarify some language and add oversight, but do not substantively change the effect of the bill.

IMPACT ON PROHIBITION

Congress and the president claim the authority to ban marijuana entirely. The Supreme Court concurs. However, nearly two-dozen states have taken steps to protect the well-being of their citizens by legalizing marijuana to varying degrees anyway.

“The rapidly growing and wildly successful state-level movement to legalize marijuana, either completely, or for medical use, proves that states can successfully effectively reject inhumane federal acts. The feds can claim the authority to prohibit pot all they want, but it clearly has done nothing to deter states from moving forward with plans to allow it, pushed by the will of the people,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

Although HB307 and SB460 only authorizes medical marijuana for a narrow group of people, it is still a good first step. By opening the door for terminally ill patients to reap the benefits of medicinal cannabis, the state would craft its own policy rather than follow the federal government’s lead. It also would take another small step toward stopping in practice the deplorable federal ban.

Since FBI statistics show that approximately 99 of 100 arrests for marijuana are done under state and not federal law, states can take immediate action to effectively block federal attempts to keep the plant illegal. Every expansion of state marijuana legalization makes it even more difficult for the federal government to enforce its prohibition on the plant.

HB307 and SB460 are drafted as expansions to Florida’s “Right to Try” law that went into effect earlier this year, thwarting in practice certain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that prevent terminally ill patients from accessing unapproved treatments.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits general access to experimental drugs. However, under the expanded access provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 360bbb, patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases may access experimental drugs after receiving express FDA approval. H269 bypasses the FDA expanded access program and allows patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without obtaining FDA approval.