Signed by the Governor: New Florida Law Legalizes Medical Marijuana for Terminal Patients

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 28, 2016) – A bill expanding the state’s “Right to Try” law by legalizing the limited use of medical marijuana by terminal patients was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott last week.

Rep. Matt Goetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) sponsored House Bill 307 (HB307). Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming) sponsored a companion bill in the Senate (SB460). The new law allows doctors treating terminally ill patients that qualify under Florida’s new “Right to Try” law to recommend medical marijuana.

The legislation was also amended to revise existing regulations relating to the state’s low-THC cannabis industry covered by the 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. That law allows physicians to prescribe low-THC cannabis to treat patients suffering from cancer or other conditions that produce seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms if no other satisfactory alternative treatment options exist. The five dispensing organizations authorized to produce and distribute low-THC cannabis under current law would also be able to do the same for medical marijuana under HB307.

HB307 passed the House 99-16 on March 3. The Senate substituted the House version for SB460 and passed it 28-11 earlier this month.

EXPAND RIGHT TO TRY

HB307 expands on a recently passed “right to try” law that sets the foundation to block in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules preventing terminally-ill patients from accessing experimental treatments. The new law allows such patients to access medical marijuana, along with other experimental medicines and treatments.

While very narrow in its scope, Florida will now more than two-dozen states ignoring the federal prohibition of marijuana by allowing its use for medicinal purposes.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Congress and the president claim the lawful authority to ban marijuana entirely. The Supreme Court concurs. However, nearly two-dozen states have taken steps to put the well-being of their citizens above the so-called federal supremacy 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 deplorable 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,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

Although HB307 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 thwarting in practice the 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 stop 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 was drafted as expansions to Florida’s “Right to Try” law that went into effect earlier this year, blocking 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. The new law bypasses the FDA expanded access program and allows patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without obtaining FDA approval.