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Matt Gaetz makes move on medical marijuana

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Lawmakers are blazing at least three trails in an attempt to make medical marijuana available in Florida.

The latest effort comes Wednesday when state Rep. Matt Gaetz will try to amend HB 269, the Right to Try Act, to allow terminally ill patients to use marijuana under certain conditions.

The measure filed by state Rep. Ray Pilon establishes the framework to enable doctors to use investigational drugs, biological products or devices to treat patients expected to die within a year of diagnosis of an illness.

The proposal enables doctors to act without utilizing the FDA’s emergency-use expanded-access program. The bill as written allows experimental medicine that has successfully completed phase 1 of a clinical trial but has yet been approved by the FDA.

Gaetz’s amendment expands that provision to include “or that has been legalized for medical use in at least 20 states.” Twenty-three states allow the medicinal use of marijuana.

HB 269 is on the House special order calendar for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has moved to dismiss the last remaining challenge to a proposed rule to implement the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2014.

In a filing Tuesday, DOH argued that Masters Growers does not have standing to bring a challenge because it does not meet the eligibility requirements to apply to become a dispensing organization. The CMCA requires a grower to have been in operation for 30 years and possess a plant inventory of 400,000 to qualify for one of the five licenses to grow marijuana lawmakers authorized.

Also Tuesday, the Medical Cannabis Trade Association of Florida voluntarily withdrew its challenge to the rule after Judge W. David Watkins ordered the group to reveal its members.

“Rather than comply with this order that MCTAF asserts violates its constitutional rights of privacy and association, MCTAF voluntarily dismisses its rule challenge,” stated attorney Stephen Grigas in court documents.

The MCTAF move leaves the Masters Growers challenge as the last remaining roadblock to implementation of the Charlotte’s Web law. If Judge W. David Watkins rules in DOH’s favor then DOH could finalize the rule by filing it with Department of State and it would then go into effect 20 days later. If Watkins rules against DOH then there will be a hearing on the challenge next week.

And work continues in the Senate on SPB 7066, the glitch bill for last year’s CMCA. Growers and investors are pushing for a more “free-market approach” in regulating a nascent marijuana industry.

“The regulatory structure is something that we have to get right,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, after SPB 7066 was pulled from the Senate floor Tuesday when more than a half dozen amendments were filed to make the bill less restrictive. “Whatever you do today you are going to create an interest group that will be fighting against any amendments to creating more licensure down the road.”

Word is SPB 7066 will be rewritten and introduced to the Senate floor next week.

“What is really amazing is how fast public opinion has changed on this,” said former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp Wednesday. “Almost no one is against this anymore.”

Kottkamp lobbies for Florida For Care, the group that supports a more expansive marijuana law than currently being considered by lawmakers.

What remains unclear though is which road Florida will take to get medicinal marijuana to the market.

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