On Tuesday, the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved a bill that will fast track the state’s medical marijuana program. The new bill expands upon the number of illnesses that qualify for medical marijuana. The expanded list includes HIV, epilepsy, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. The bill also quadruples the number of organizations that can dispense medical marijuana in the state.
Still not enough
Anneliese Clark has been a major voice in Florida’s battle for legal medical marijuana. Her 10-year old daughter, Christina, takes a liquid form of medical marijuana twice a day to treat intractable epilepsy. Clark had to take Christina to California for the treatment.
“Technically I am a criminal, because I chose to save my child rather than watch her suffer,” Clark said.
Clark is not satisfied with the language used in the legislation passed by the Senate committee. The bill says that patients must exhaust all other treatments before turning to medical marijuana.
“We’ve done that and it’s left my daughter crippled, on a feeding tube, and I have millions of dollars in medical bills from trying all those things,” Clark said after the hearing.
Clark also said that the state needs to allow higher levels of THC or the drug will not help patients like her daughter.
“The politicians didn’t decide how much Tylenol I can take they shouldn’t decide how much cannabinoid therapy you can take either,” Clark said.
More conditions need access to medical marijuana
A number of critics have said the legislation is still too limited when it comes to the number of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. Critics have said that the list of conditions should be much longer.
Clark thinks that lawmakers need to get past the stigma associated with marijuana and she hopes they will listen to medical marijuana experts.
Clark said, “It’s a step forward in that the conversation is continuing. It’s not the end.”
Expect to see marijuana on the 2016 ballot
Orlando attorney John Morgan is getting ready to launch another campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. The United For Care group has been actively gathering supporters, raising money, and collecting signatures to get medical marijuana on the 2016 ballot.
“We are preparing to get back on the ballot for 2016 and take this issue back to the voters because the elected officials are not doing their job,” said Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United For Care.
Medical marijuana almost passed during the 2014 election, but it fell short of the 60% needed as an amendment to the state constitution. Advocates expect to see much stronger support for medical marijuana before the November election. Marijuana support groups have been proactive in their efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Florida, which will pay off at the polls next year.