TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Rules to enact Florida's medical marijuana amendment went up in smoke on Friday after the Legislature failed to pass a bill.
The House and Senate agreed on most key parts of a bill putting rules in place for Amendment 2. But it collapsed on Friday when the chambers could not agree on the number of retail dispensaries that a medical marijuana treatment center can operate
The House voted 99-16 on a bill with the amended language (HB 1397) that put the limit at 100 per treatment center but the Senate, which limited it to five per treatment center, did not take it up.
It will now be up to the Department of Health to come up with rules for patients, caregivers, doctors and treatment centers by July 3 and have them implemented by October.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran blamed the Senate for the failure of legislation, complaining that they wanted to tax medical marijuana and that the Senate proposal would have forced patients to drive hours in order to get cannabis.
"To pass what they wanted had nothing to do with the will of the voters," Corcoran said.
Senate President Joe Negron said that the chambers had different approaches on licenses and dispensaries that they were not able to reach middle ground.
Michael Bowen, who is on the Board of Directors for the Florida Epilepsy Foundation, suffered a grand mal seizure during a Senate committee hearing on April 18. He said Friday that with the legislature's inaction those who suffer epileptic seizures are at greater risk due to lack of access to cannabis.
"I am 100 percent disgusted. They needed to get something passed. They can hammer out the finer points in future sessions," he said.
Currently, low-THC and non-smoked cannabis can be used by patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms. The law was expanded last year to include patients with terminal conditions and allowed them to use higher strains.
The bill would have allowed those who suffer chronic pain related to one of 10 qualifying conditions to receive either low-THC cannabis or full strength medical marijuana.
Patients could have received an order for three 70-day supplies during a doctor's visit that they could then take to a medical marijuana treatment center. Besides oils and sprays, those centers would have been allowed to expand sales to edibles and vaping products but smoking would still be banned. It also would have added 10 more medical marijuana treatment centers by July 1, 2018.
The Department of Health held five workshops throughout the state in early February to take input on rules.
Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said they still continue to review public comments while coming up with proposed rules. Litigation is expected over whatever rules the department comes up with, based on its prior rulemaking history.
"The legislature chose political gamesmanship over the will of 71 percent of voters," said Florida for Care Executive Director Ben Pollara. "The House got to poke the Senate in the eye one last time, but the real losers are sick and suffering Floridians."
Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout contributed.