Marijuana Bills Going Up in Smoke ... This Year

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: March 30, 2013 3:55 AM

Katie Edwards and Jeff Clemens

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, and Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth

Advocates for medical marijuana legalization are seeing their legislative ambitions go up in smoke, as the fourth week of Florida's 2013 session drew to a close and, with it, most reasonable hopes of their bill receiving a hearing in the House.

Sources tell Sunshine State News that the order to table the legislation came directly from House Speaker Will Weatherford, who fears that controversy generated by the measure would hurt Republicans' electoral prospects.

HB 1139, the “Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act,” would have allowed patients with certain specified medical conditions to possess and ingest medicinal cannabis under a doctor's supervision. The measure was sponsored by freshmen Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, and Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.

Most years the failure of a Democrat-drafted drug legalization bill to move through the state's Republican-dominated Legislature would be uneventful: the pope is still Catholic, and water is still wet. But 2013 was different, or so activists hoped. Last November, Colorado and Washington became the first two states in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use, while Massachusetts became the 18th state to legalize it for medicinal purposes. A new bipartisan spirit seemed to be prevailing in the Legislature, and polls consistently show that overwhelming majorities of Floridians favor the legalization of medical cannabis.

Jodi James

Jodi James

Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network (FLCAN), had even gotten wind from a legislator that a workshop on the matter would be held on Wednesday, March 27.

“We pulled together the A-team of witnesses to speak: a retired chief of police, testimony by doctors, military veteran to introduce a VA directive, all the big guns,” James explains to SSN.

But on Tuesday, James received word that the workshop would not be held, despite assurances she had received from Health Quality Subcommittee Chairman Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, that he expected HB 1139 to receive a hearing before his panel, if not an up-or-down vote.

Edwards confirms to SSN her shock that the issue did not receive so much as a workshop hearing. She did not expect her bill to reach the floor, or to even receive a committee vote this session, but she had hoped to convince legislators to conduct a study on the fiscal impact of marijuana legalization.

“I think it would behoove all of us to recognize that [medical cannabis legalization] is going to happen, it's just a matter of time,” she tells SSN. “But the time to have the conversation is now.”

Edwards declines to confirm or deny rumors that Roberson had been pressured by Weatherford to table her bill.

“I have heard those rumors, but out of deference to the speaker, until he says to me, 'Representative Edwards, I don't want your bill heard,' I don't want to feed any rumors,” she says. “I'm going to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt and wait until I hear from him directly that that is the case.”

Roberson for his part denies he's received any such orders from House leadership.

“I did not get any direction from the speaker, whether to hear it or not to hear it,” he insists. “We've been dealing mostly with issues having to do with the Affordable Care Act and scope of practice issues. We just did not get to the bill.”

Ryan Duffy

Ryan Duffy

Weatherford spokesman Ryan Duffy also denied the rumors, telling SSN they are "just false."

The Medical Cannabis Act is named after Cathy Jordan, FLCAN's president and a sufferer from Lou Gehrig's disease, who smokes marijuana cigarettes in order to keep her mouth dry and offset some of the disease's symptoms.

As SSN analyst Jeff Henderson wrote last week, Republicans could have much to fear, politically, from the presence of a medical marijuana amendment on the 2014 ballot. The measure likely would attract a plethora of young voters, who largely lean Democratic.

Edwards dismisses concerns that her bill would be a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" for Republican legislators, who fear a "yes" vote on the measure might upset their more conservative constituents.

“My bill is a win-win for Republicans,” she insists. “If they're trying to peg themselves as being compassionate conservatives, then by all means this is compassionate – you're helping sick people – and this is conservative: we're going to look at an additional source of tax revenue for the state. What more could you want?”

Thursday marked the final day of subcommittee hearings, but there are any number of procedural maneuvers House leadership can avail itself of, from now until the end of April, to get bills heard before a committee or even brought before the full floor for a vote. Duffy tells SSN the speaker is not inclined to circumvent the committee process.

Should the Florida Legislature consider the Marijuana bill? Vote here.

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116. 

Comments (31)

Ferris 'Blazed' Valentine
4:45PM FEB 3RD 2014
When is this all gonna be sorted FL should have marijuana regardless of age it benefits us all and it's better than drinking and killing your liver n kidneys but weed just opens our mind up it also brings friends and family's together ! LEGALIZE IT , LIGHT IT, AND PASS IT !!
3:26PM SEP 6TH 2013
of course florida would not approve why? because you have a bunch of rich old timers living in that state that are addicted too alcohol learn new ways of the world allow legalization...
7:05PM MAY 10TH 2013
Florida has alot of weed anyway, we smoke it like its legal. Why not make a profit, isnt that what a government is.
June Appel
6:03AM MAY 2ND 2013
When GOD created all the plants, he said they was good. So why is it even illegal, in the BIBLE. Genesis 9:3 states GOD gave us that green herb, so it should be treated like any other herb as it was created as one. Why does the Government have to control everything, Cannibus is a lot better then alcohol or pills but we push pills on everyone to solve there problems when these things should be controlled more so then Cannibus. If the majority of the people want it legal then why is it so hard to legalize it. We are the people, we are the Government, so why is are wishes not followed through with. It shouldn't be that hard, cigs are worse then pot so why are we not making packs of pot cigs. This is a gateway drug to help people get off all the other bologna, so quit beating around the bush and chop it down and sell it for everyone. I rather live in a world with everyone on pot then other things, it takes stress out of peoples lives. So what is so bad about that, other things adds stress to things. If this was legal more people would turn to this instead of pills and alcohol, a lot of are Veterians do it to help with there nightmares but were going to make them criminals because they rather do that then other things. This is about stupid, there shouldn't be no talking, WE THE PEOPLE have spoken load and clear so you all need to listen or we need to get other people in office that will listen to WE THE PEOPLE
mack faircloth
11:15AM APR 22ND 2013
I believe cannabis prohibition is wrong. The reason I 'm a Repub.. is because I do believe in freedom. from a practical standpoint,Just think of the law enforcement resources that could be redirected to violent crimes and so forth. Not to mention all the peoples lives ruined by misguided government.
3:15PM APR 19TH 2013
Yes I believe that marijuana should be legal not just medically but for recreation too! It's the only thing that makes sense.
moises fermil
3:21AM APR 12TH 2013
the Republicans are on there way out, just VOTE
Eileen Rubart
2:53AM APR 5TH 2013
Good ole Republicans playing politics AGAIN!!!!
5:47PM APR 1ST 2013
I am republican. I 100% support legalizing marijuana both medicinally and recreationally. It is a MUST HAVE medically and recreationally it is safer than alcohol use and could alleviate not only state deficits but the federal deficit if legislators would just wake up and look at the reality of the situation.
4:22PM APR 1ST 2013
It would be nice if the Florida Legislature wouldn't reduce us to begging for this. If one of you had a condition where legal "pain management" isn't working, this bill would pass without much rangling. The Republicans need to stop trying to dictate what are ALL the rights of free people and not just gun-owners.
John R Trask
12:51PM APR 1ST 2013
I urge you to please consider this bill. There are patients who have no hope and the passage of this bill would give them HOPE! I am a current cancer patient and I am on that list of patients who could be helped.
Eric Oriol
8:22AM APR 1ST 2013
Another perfect example or Republican stupidity and immaturity.Don't they realize that the so called conservatives they are speaking of are all Democrats with different clothing.The majority of so called Conservatives whom I know smoke Marihuana.Even people with big government jobs smoke marihuana.Republicans are losers anyway who will rather die stupid than do anything intelligent.Sometimes I do not know why they just don't go away and leave the job of governing to smart folks.
6:19PM MAR 31ST 2013
thwarting the will of voting Americans,,,,typical republicans
amy cavanaugh
10:56PM MAR 30TH 2013
I am a young republican-since I have only been one since November. I am a Hospice volunteer and a widow. I am a widow because of Florida's cannabis laws. We are the only major state that has not started the conversation. I am also an activist, I can not quite get to the bottom of why these bills have not been heard at the committee level. What is going to happen is John Morgan is going to put marijuana and Charlie Crist on the 2014 ballot and there will be a swift wind blowing all the republicans out of Tallahassee. I wish I knew the real story!!!
Hugh Yonn
3:14PM MAR 30TH 2013
Now, those of you who may still be able to vote know who to remove from office next election.

I cannot vote, I have a felony marijuana conviction.

Law enforcement needs to re-direct its focus on crime...to those that are REAL crimes.

I was in Federal Prison for 5 years for a marijuana offense. No, it was not for simple possession. I was arrested aboard a Lockheed PV2 in Marianna, Florida...charged and convicted for conspiracy to import and distribute 12,000 pounds of marijuana.

As those 5 years rolled by, what I did see were armed bank robbers, coming and going...while I still sat there for marijuana. Most of the bank robbers only spent 17 to 24 months. But, I and my fellow 'drug offenders,'...we stayed for YEARS.

I wrote about the escapades that led to my incarceration.
I admit, I had a great time.
No one was injured, no one was killed, firearms were not involved...there were no victims.

We were Americans...doing what Americans do best...living free.

The book: Shoulda Robbed a Bank
3:06AM MAR 31ST 2013
Will it be published? I will buy a copy. Good luck man. So sorry to see another victim of a policy that should have been shot the F*^$ down long ago!!!!
erik brown
2:56PM MAR 30TH 2013
how many billions of dollars are spent because the liquor companies had marijuana put on the illegal list at the end of prohibition. It never caused the problems in society that liquor did or has since. Prohibition of alcohol was a bad idea and this is too.
It is all about money honey.
4:36PM AUG 29TH 2013
Liquor companies didn't make marijuana illegal: Harry J. Anslinger did. This was most likely for two reasons. 1. Racial. All of those Mexicans and the jazz players of New Orleans. Basically, Mexicans and black folk who smoked it, had strange customs and behaviors and these could not be tolerated by "civilized" society. Of course most people didn't even know what it was and no one spoke up on its behalf. Well, ONE doctor did. And 2. Hearst backed Anslinger for his role as making marijuana illegal would help protect Hearst's interest in paper by removing the competition of hemp and by DuPont for their interests in petro chemicals. Alcohol industry had nothing to do with it.
1:48PM MAR 30TH 2013
What a shame. God gives us a safe medical wonder herb that can improve the health and quality of life for many and our legislator's can't make giving it chance to have legal status a priority.
Hugh Yonn
3:15PM MAR 30TH 2013
In 2009, over 26,000 Americans were killed by prescription medications.

Deaths caused by marijuana: NOT ONE in recorded history.

Several years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder. Pain medication was prescribed..."take one capsule every 4 hours."
I took one capsule.
I was down for over 20 hours. When I came to, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The next time I felt discomfort, I smoked a small amount of marijuana ...pain gone, no after effects.

I threw the pills out.
6:59PM MAR 30TH 2013
I think the death toll from prescription drugs is much higher than that. But anyway, if i needed pain relief better than an Advil, I would definitely try marijuana before I'd take a prescription pain medication. Legal or not....
1:35PM MAR 30TH 2013
If you are young person, please take notes. These people are banking on the fact that they will be able to flip on this issue in a few years and still get our votes for the rest of their political careers. In about 10 years, these same republicans will be convincing us that they are all for our rights and against the drug war all along.

It is up to us to REMEMBER House Speaker Will Weatherford for his actions.
Hector Berlioz
1:26PM MAR 30TH 2013
I'm a 61 year old, registered Republican. I've voted in every election since I turned 18, and with few exceptions, I've always supported the Republican Candidate on the ticket. But the Republican Party is slowly but surely dirfting further and further to the right. (at the same time, the Democrat Party is moving further and further to the Left... ) For years now I've felt that the party didn't care about moderate constituants, they just care about pleasing the Ultra-Right wing side of the party. They like to use names like "RINO" as if we're not good enough for them (While Democrats still want to think of me as an "Evil" Republican). What ever happened to the idea of thinking about the best intersts of ALL Citizens, instead of the best interests of the extreme edges of either political party?

This "Refusal" to even give this bill a fair hearing... this refusal to even let it come up for a vote... this insane refusal to even LOOK at it, have shown me just how insane the Republican Party has become. Our party leadership KNOWS what the majority of the citizens of Florida think.... They KNOW what the majority of the citizens of Florida want... yet they remain steadfast in their refusal to even listen. Well listen at the polls you fools, because THIS Republican has had enough. You want my vote... you NEED my vote.... yet for some inexplicable reason you believe that you can continue to ignore me and millions just like me, and still earn my vote. Well.... Guess What? I've woken up.... I KNOW that you don't care... I KNOW that you don't represent me.... and you no longer have my support. Don't look for me at the polls... You've lost me. When you can be so blind, and so arrogant, you've lost me. You haven't earned my vote.... you've earned my distain, and I look forward to your eminent demise.
12:26PM MAR 30TH 2013
Dear G O P,,

"For Whom The Bell Tolls,,It Tolls For Thee"

At the very least you can do, "IS LISTEN TO IT".
11:53AM MAR 30TH 2013
I don't give a fuuuuuck ill still blaze and live than drink and die...0 deaths you corrupt [filtered word]s
9:15AM MAR 30TH 2013
Good riddance to Republican control in Florida.
4:40PM AUG 29TH 2013
...which is what it's really all about: Retaining political control of the state. This has nothing to do with any sort of public health issues anymore. It will be a nice change to send the Republicans packing from Flori-DUH, a name which came about by being under Republican control, by the way.
8:44AM MAR 30TH 2013
Those of us who benefit from marijuana will get it regardless of what the law says. They are only deciding not to benefit from it financially.
11:54AM MAR 30TH 2013
Amen brother!!
Russell Marshall
5:48AM MAR 30TH 2013
It is a shame that our politicians are more concerned about the Republician Party than needs of the people of the state of Florida. I am truly ashamed that I am a Republician.
Jim Heffner
7:53AM MAR 30TH 2013
Don't feel alone Russell. I've voted almost a straight Democratic ticket since 1964 and I'm ashamed of my party also. I fear that the politicians will get on the anti-prohibition wagon when the economic interests are all lined up for agribusiness, alcohol/tobacco, big pharma, and their ilk to over regulate and keep cannabis in the hands of big business. I think you'll find that donations from the privatized prison industry are going to any politician that will take them and not just one party. Hopefully the over use of the 'fear button' by those interests will let more and more people arrive at the conclusion that they are crying wolf.

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