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Florida Senate passes medical pot plan; it’s time to adjust

By ANDREW FOERCH

Florida state senate took a big step Monday toward implementing a productive plan for medical marijuana, passing a bill refining regulations around the legal use of the substance.

The legislation is named SB-406 and is sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.

Among the most notable adjustments are the allowance of non-Florida-residents to apply for medical marijuana if they receive it in their home state, and an increased cap on the number of licensed marijuana dispensaries. As of now, there are just seven dispensaries legally allowed to sell medical pot – the new bill expands that license cap by five businesses once the state hits 250,000 patients, 350,000 patients, 400,000 patients, and for every 100,000 patients thereafter.

Additional SB-406’s new amendments are 1) the creation of a coalition for medical marijuana research through Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute, and 2) that an independent laboratory must test all marijuana for potency before it is made available to patients. These are welcome additions to the existing state legislation considering the federal government’s current trouble producing medical-quality marijuana. News Herald reports Johns Hopkins University actually pulled out of a study investigating marijuana as a treatment for PTSD due to moldy, poor-quality government-grown samples.

This is an encouraging start to the handling of medicinal marijuana in what has been a historically anti-pot state. The more scientific research, independent testing and medical application that Florida can do, the better. We know marijuana is trending toward legalization in more and more places, so to make it as safe and medically viable as possible, we need to embrace the research. That way, we know it’ll be safe and government-approved, and we can stop putting kids in jail (and, in the case of the University, kicking them off campus) for minor drug offenses – it’s what the public wants.

Florida voters approved Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana in November 2016 with over 70% support – Sunshine State News reports that Bradley referred to the plan as, “the will of the voters.” It’s refreshing to see a state legislator put their party platform aside to further the collective decisions of the taxpayers instead of stifling democratic action with bureaucratic handcuffs.

For a state as conservative as Florida to carve its own path in the medical marijuana industry instead of waiting for the federal government to amend national law shows that the nation is ready for prohibition to die. It’ll be a slow, politically-charged death, but we saw it begin in 2012 with Colorado Amendment 64 and Washington Initiative 502, and again in 2015 with Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 and Oregon’s Measure 91. Federal change begins at the state level.

Florida’s legislative amendments this week are an indication that it might be time for UT to rethink their zero-tolerance policy against marijuana. UT is notoriously strict against weed and does not hesitate to kick students off campus, especially during the first weeks of the semester. Why are students allowed three strikes for having open liquor on campus but kicked swiftly out of housing for having a joint in your desk? State law now allows people ages 18 and above access to medical marijuana for non-debilitating medical issues like glaucoma, seizures, Chron’s disease, HIV/AIDS and PTSD – if a student is prescribed marijuana by a licensed marijuana doctor, they shouldn’t be forced to forego their treatment or seek more expensive or dangerous options because the university has a no-exceptions zero-tolerance policy against the substance.

Obviously, UT isn’t going to turn 180 degrees and comprehensively authorize marijuana use or possession on campus – and we aren’t saying they should – but let’s stop kicking out-of-state teenagers off campus for their first paltry pot offense. Perhaps a strike system such as the one in place for alcohol would be more effective. At the minimum, the school needs to adjust their policy to provide exemption from the rule for medically prescribed users.

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