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Five minutes with Matt Gaetz, talking FDA lies and being on the back 9 with medicinal marijuana

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Growers may want to start planning to plant cannabis seeds. Whether the authorization will come under the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2014, or SPB 7066, which is moving in the Senate or under an amended bill is still unclear.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, however, said Thursday that Florida “is on the back 9” in clearing the legal hurdles for a medicinal marijuana industry.

Wednesday when the House approved the Right to Try Act, a bill allowing terminally ill patients to use experimental drugs, Gaetz floated an amendment that would have included marijuana — without any restrictions other than the product has to be legal in 20 other states that have approved using the drug. It is a much broader standard, allowing higher levels of THC and a variety of products than currently being considered in the Legislature.

It was the first time the full House had discussed medicinal marijuana this session. Gaetz withdrew the amendment but predicted House members would see the language again. He expects the Senate will send back an amended version.

The Senate sponsor of the Right to Try Act is Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Brandes, like Gaetz, thinks marijuana is noncontroversial when “you are holding the hand of a dying cancer patient.” And Gaetz, like Brandes, is taking a libertarian view when it comes to medical decisions and setting up a regulatory structure for a medicinal marijuana industry.

The Senate is also working SPB 7066. Its sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley, is reluctant to lift THC-limits now in place but he says advocates are making “compelling arguments” and that he’s “getting good feedback” on the issue.

That by no way indicates getting a higher THC level or allowing edibles and smokable marijuana medicine approved in the Senate is assured. Another leading senator, Aaron Bean, is reluctant to move for the time being to pass what was approved last year.

“We have no evidence on any type of noneuphoric medicine that we approved already because we can’t get it to market because so many people have challenged every rule we’ve had,” Bean said. “Remember last year we just started off taking baby steps and we haven’t completed our first baby step and people say lets run this triathlon.”

Gaetz though said he thinks if a bill lifting the THC limits and allowing more medicinal cannabis products were to come to the House from the Senate there will be enough votes to get it pass.

“The ball is in the Senate’s court,” Gaetz said.

We had six questions for Gaetz on medicinal cannabis and the next two weeks.

Q: It appears you are using a libertarian argument to gain support for medicinal marijuana.

Gaetz: I think the government’s regulation of marijuana has not helped people that are vulnerable, that are in pain, that are in need, and that are dying. I believe that the federal FDA has lied to this country for more than a generation, and I think a good dose of libertarianism should be a good thing for the state of Florida as we modernize our cannabis policy.

Q: Do you think there are 61 votes in the House for that argument?

Gaetz: Yes

Q: Are you saying if the Senate sends a bill back over here with language that would lift the prohibition on THC levels above the current law it will fly in the House?

Gaetz: I got a reaction from my colleagues on my amendment to the Pilon bill suggesting that the ball is in the Senate court. If they chose to make an amendment to Senator Brandes’ Right to Try bill in the senate and send that over in a way that compassionately and reasonably deals with dying people I think there are 61 votes on the floor of the House to pass the amendment.

Senator Brandes has been the cannabis innovator for many years and he now has an opportunity.

Q: What kind of signals are you getting from the governor’s office?

Gaetz: I think the governor’s office is very appropriately laser-focused on getting through the rule challenges to the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act passed last year. I’ve spoken with the governor’s office about the progress in that respect and they are confident following the hearing on April 23rd we will be in the home stretch to get cannabis seeds in the ground in the state of Florida.

Q: If the rule is upheld and the CMCA is implemented does SPB 7066 go away?

Gaetz: I don’t know. I’m evaluating how the rule challenges interact with the proposal that Senator Bradley has championed and I have not concluded that analysis. I do believe that we can have a regulatory structure pursuant to 1030 that is implemented side-by-side with changes to the right-to-try bill. For THC-based cannabis. I do not believe them to be mutually exclusive.

Q: But SPB 7066 would not be needed, right?

Gaetz: I don’t know. I think there are other provisions of that bill relating to transportation and lab testing that are admittedly improvements on the product I helped draft last year.

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