Matt Gaetz Files HB 843, Light-Strain Medical Marijuana Bill

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: February 6, 2014 4:30 PM
Matt Gaetz and Katie Edwards

Matt Gaetz and Katie Edwards

An upbeat Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, told Sunshine State News Thursday he had just filed a stand-alone bill that will allow the cultivation, distribution and sale of a non-euphoric marijuana in Florida and said he is confident it will pass all the way to the governor's desk.

"It's House Bill 843, with a simple one-sentence description, and I'll be able to move the legislation through the House myself," said Gaetz, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

The bill's description is this: "Cannabis: Revises definition of term "cannabis" for purposes of Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act and applicable to certain criminal offenses proscribing sale, manufacture, delivery, possession, or purchase of cannabis, to which penalties apply."

Said prime co-sponsor of the bill Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, "I'm incredibly happy that the House will finally have an opportunity to have a fair and genuine debate on this issue. The patients and their families who have contacted me have stressed that they cannot wait for further inaction or delay, so I believe it's imperative that we continue to engage as many from the medical and patient communities as possible to craft the best public health policy for Florida.

"For those who are not yet convinced about the need for cannabis reform in the state," Edwards said, "I welcome them to the conversation and dialogue as we continue to learn more about how this plant can be used in its many nonpsychotrophic, nonsmokable derivatives to help patients." 

In the past two weeks, dozens of families dealing with Dravet syndrome -- a severe form of epilepsy in children -- have come forward to support what originally was intended as an amendment to HB 99, criminal sentencing legislation. A few of them gave emotional and compelling testimony during a workshop in January, and their plight has heightened legislators' awareness. And since the workshop the faith-based community, traditionally opposed to legalizing "street" drugs in any form, have begun to open their hearts and minds to the light strain of medical cannabis that relieves suffering but doesn't produce a "high."  

"I hope and believe we can turn Representative (Dennis) Baxley's vote," Gaetz said. "He understands the value of having this debate and so it's so much better we're now looking at a separate bill."

Gaetz said he looks forward to "flushing out the issues" by bringing on experts in medicine, cultivation, regulation, distribution, whatever it takes "to do HB 843 carefully and correctly."

On Tuesday Gaetz and Edwards scrambled to prepare an amendment to Edwards' HB 99. But just before Wednesday's Criminal Justice Subcommittee meeting, they scratched the plan.

"Some key legislators have worried an amendment to HB 99 would look too much like we were pushing through the same thing as the medical marijuana amendment on the ballot in November," Gaetz said.

"It's been a joy working on this with Representative. Edwards," said Gaetz. "This is a bipartisan effort all the way. I've always believed we do our best work when we take arguments and suggestions from both sides of the aisle."

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

Comments (5)

7:11PM FEB 10TH 2014
I agree and hope that the Medical marijuana will be voted yes in November. However, this particular strain needs to come to Florida even sooner. Some of the children that need this may not live to see the amendment passed. That is why as a parent I can understand the need to bring this forward in the HB 843 and want it to pass. These children who suffer horrible seizures sometimes in the hundreds a day need this so much . I would hate to think that another one will pass away before this can get through the Legislature. I think those that are for MMJ as a whole need to consider the urgency these parents are feeling in regards to their childs lives. Even if Fl passes MMJ in November the Legislature will have many things to decide and that could take a long time to implement the process of consumers getting the MMJ. Some of these children don't have that long to wait. So, I think I can see both sides and hope they both pass.
8:24PM FEB 6TH 2014
I am very happy for those this will help. I am disgusted with the politics of it. Why not all forms, to be used under the care of a Doctor? Next up will be the claim that the proposed constitutional admendment is unneccessary as the have legalized the only variant with medical use. Then the question. it is in CO, we are in FL, how do you get the initial stocks here without violating multiple states and federal law? Has no one bothered to think this through in the rush to do something,anything, to shortcut medical marijuana?
9:22PM FEB 6TH 2014
Amen, Dean. To say that one strain is beneficial and is the only strain that should be given any legal benefit is a worrisome outcome if this goes through. "I though they already legalized medical marijuana" will become a problematic perspective.
9:50PM FEB 6TH 2014
How better to discredit the medical marijuana admendment than to claim, Mission Accomplished, and many can be fooled. It falls to those of us who understand the uses of medical marijuana to explain the difference to those who will be confused by the GOP propaganda that high thc marijuana serves a section of our population that currently is at risk from opiate addiction and death by overdose. All variants have medical uses and can be used much more safe than opiates, or with them to reduce the higher potency variants. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has died from an overdose of marijuana, while how many in Fl die every year from opiate overdose. To say we have no need for a drug that gets you "high" is stupid,I often catch a buzz from my 2x daily "legal" lortabs and soma. Both of which are highly addictive. Please support the medical marijuana admendment. Thank you all for reading and considering this.
7:01PM FEB 6TH 2014
It's about time.

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