It’s official: Florida Gov. Scott has signed a bill to regulate Florida’s growing medical marijuana industry into law.
The bill, SB 8A, was among 38 other proposals the governor signed into law on Friday.
Scott’s signature comes after a tumultuous several months for medical marijuana. State lawmakers planned for months to hammer out regulations for the medical marijuana industry after voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to expand the drug’s use for patients with "debilitating" conditions last November.
Negotiations over how to regulate the drug collapsed, however, after lawmakers reached an impasse in May over exactly how many retail facilities medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) should be allowed to open.
At the time, the House pushed a more generous measure, proposing Florida allow an unlimited number of dispensaries. That number was later pared down to 100, then 50, but senators said the number was too high and the legislation died.
Lawmakers called it quits during the regular legislative session, but with a sense of “mission unaccomplished” returned to the Florida Capitol this week to hammer out an agreement to appease the will of Florida voters who said “yes” to the constitutional amendment last fall.
Under the new proposal, which was carried by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, MMTCs would be limited to 25 retail facilities, a number both the House and Senate finally agreed upon after months of debate.
The legislation allows for 10 new medical marijuana treatment centers to open by Oct. 3, in addition to the seven original growers already in operation.
The Senate bill would also set aside millions of dollars to research medical marijuana at Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center, one of the leading research institutes in the state.
"This is still important, necessary legislation that provides patient access and begins to fulfill the will of [the] 71 percent [of voters,]" wrote Florida For Care executive director Ben Pollara earlier this month.
SB 8A allows for edibles, vaping, oils and pill form of medical cannabis, but the current legislation prohibits smoking the drug, which has become a hot button issue for some medical marijuana advocates throughout the state.
Orlando attorney John Morgan, who was largely responsible for crafting the amendment, said he plans to sue the state to allow suffering patients to smoke the drug.
“Great Scott!! I'll be filing my lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law,” he wrote on Twitter.
Morgan says state lawmakers didn’t quite understand the intent of Amendment 2, which he largely crafted with other pro-medical marijuana advocates.
“I don’t know what their problem is with smoke but that’s clearly the intent of the amendment,” Morgan said. “I will get to sue them to allow medical marijuana to be smoked.”
Morgan told Sunshine State News Amendment 2 restricts patients from smoking the drug in public, but said the underlying implication is that medical marijuana can be smoked in the privacy of patients’ homes.
“They’re making it a health issue like someone in chemotherapy is taking a few tokes,” Morgan said. “It’s a bunch of people who don't understand what they don't understand. When you're dying the last thing you care about is the smoke from marijuana."