House Medical Marijuana Bill Still on Track

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 10, 2014 3:55 AM
Will Weatherford and Dennis Baxley

Will Weatherford and Dennis Baxley

The light-strain medical marijuana bill, said to be under fire behind the scenes, is for the moment anyway, alive and well and moving ahead as planned in the House.

House Speaker Will Weatherford told Sunshine State News on Wednesday, "The supporters of Charlotte’s Web make a compelling case for their legislation. I expect the bill to receive a fair hearing in the House at the appropriate time."

Weatherford's statement follows rumors late last week that St. Petersburg millionaire and Republican campaign donor Mel Sembler, an anti-drug crusader most of his life, was pressuring House leadership to kill the bill. Sembler and his wife Betty directed the leading juvenile drug rehab business in America, STRAIGHT Inc., which prosecutors closed in 1993 after reports of sexual abuse, beatings, prisoner-of-war-style torture and cover-ups.

Next stop for HB 843 is the Judiciary Committee, chaired by  Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.

"I promised Chair (Matt) Gaetz I would give him a fair hearing on this," said Baxley, "and none of that has changed."

Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, sponsor of the bill, has said he is undeterred by any talk and focused on moving his bill forward.

Baxley said he knows there's still a lot of work to do on the bill to get questions answered and work out the kinks. "It's not ready for this week. I don't expect to see it in Judiciary until maybe week 8 of the session. The Senate and the House have very different approaches, and I'm sure it's like threading a needle to put it all together and make it work."

Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, cosponsor of HB 843, like Gaetz remains committed and optimistic.

"(Criminal Justice Subcommittee) Chairman Gaetz and I have been proactive and inclusive with this bill," she said Wednesday. "We not only asked all of the House cosponsors for input and feedback on the proposed amendment, we have worked with our Senate sponsors to insure that the amendments reflect the constructive criticism from members and the public received in the committee meeting.

"I believe the bill we bring to the Judiciary Committee will embody our earnest efforts to win over even the most skeptical of skeptics," Edwards said.

Baxley said after the Judiciary Committee -- providing it survives -- HB 843 will go to Rules and then to the House floor.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (4)

11:39AM APR 13TH 2014
Reuters reports that Colorado (the first state to tax legalized recreational marijuana sales) projects $98 million in revenue this year, an increase of 40 percent over original projections.
8:24AM APR 10TH 2014
We can not rely on the partisan Politicians in Tally to do the Medical Marijuana bill. What they are working on will only help a very small percentage of the Floridians who will be helped by this natural plant. I ask that everybody vote YES on Amendment 2 and legalize Medical Marijuana in Florida. Sometimes We must force the Politicians to do the will of the people. Thank You
5:27PM APR 10TH 2014
Thank you Dean. It is time the people rise up and put an end to all the lies our government has been feeding us. Power to the People.
10:15PM APR 10TH 2014
I thank you Joe for your support. It takes guts to openly support Medical Marijuana. Believe me, I know all too well. I have been an open and vocal supporter of MM for years. Collected signatures and passed out a couple hundred petitions. I have also been investigated by my local county SO. Had them fly a helicopter around and around my home about 100 feet in the air, then dropping by, requesting to "look around". Recently I caught a deputy tresspassing on my neighbors property in order to watch me. I see them drive by my home several times a week. The politicians and many in law enforcement see legalized Medical Marijuana as a loss of their power and money. Despite majority support in Florida many Republicans continue to fight it tooth and nail. Goverment of, for and by the People has become gvmt of, for and by the politicians, with the most important agenda being to get re-elected. I again ask that everybody Vote YES on 2 and legalize Medical Marijuana in Florida. It will do great good for many people. It will create jobs. It will improve the life of patients. Thank You each and Everyone.

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