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“Right to Try” expansion bill adding medical marijuana passes Senate panel

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A bill to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana passed its first committee stop in the Senate on Tuesday, hours after a House panel OK’d a similar bill.

Debate focused on eliminating roadblocks to care amid nearly two years of delays since a bill to allow low-THC cannabis derivatives was enacted in 2014.

Bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley acknowledged the 2014 Compassionate Use Act passed by the Legislature “could have been better.”

Asked by Sen. Don Gaetz – Senate president at the time Bradley’s  SB 1030 – whether the bill might further hold up the process, Bradley said although he wished he could offer more assurance, for now could only say he felt the bill was the best possible way forward.

“I want to see the state deliver on our promise,” Bradley said. “That’s the only caveat.”

Gaetz, who opted not to kill the 2014 “Charlotte’s Web” law despite reservations, said for Bradley’s bill to be effective it must cut through the “Gordian knot” that has snarled the Charlotte’s Web legislation.

Gaetz asked Bradley and state Sen. Aaron Bean to commit to finding “where and who the bottlenecks are” and “make ’em famous” by calling then to account before the Health Policy committee.

“We’ve been weeks away for about a year and half,” said Chairman Bean, saying he would be only to happy to “get the band back together” to plug the leaks in the ailing low-THC medical marijuana implementation process.

“I’m happy to use this legislation as a vehicle to get where we want to be,” Bradley said.

Louis Rotundo of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association waived his time in support, and lobbyist Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida signaled his support as well Tuesday.

“I’m hopeful that the comments made by Senators Bradley and Bean are a harbinger of cooperation moving forward,” Biehl said.

“Looking forward to getting the gang back together,” was Bradley’s closing statement on the bill.

It passed with zero negative votes.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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