For the second year in a row, medical marijuana legislation has been filed in Florida, and for the first time ever, bills have been filed in both the House and the Senate. The bills, House Joint Resolution 353 and Senate Joint Resolution 1028, ask the legislature to approve a referendum on medical marijuana for the November ballot.
Under the resolutions, patients with a doctor's recommendation and his or her primary caregiver would have an affirmative defense if charged with a marijuana offense as long as the amount of marijuana was not greater than the amount set by the state and could still mount an affirmative defense if it was, provided that greater amount is "medically necessary." The amount is not set in the resolutions; instead, the legislature would be charged with setting quantity limits in the event the referendum passes.
Neither bill has been scheduled for a hearing. Still, Florida activists are happy to see them and will be present in Tallahassee to lobby for them.
"This is the first time since 1978 that cannabis advocates will have a sustained presence in the legislature," said veteran activist Jodi James of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. "Sick and dying people need access to this medicine now, she told the Gainesville Sun.
The group has also created a Florida Decides web site with a petition to Gov. Rick Scott (R) asking him to urge the legislature to bypass the referendum process and just pass a medical marijuana bill directly. So far, that petition has 2,876 electronic signatures.
While the House version has a handful of cosponsors, the sole sponsor in the Senate is Sen. Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami). She told the Sun she had originally sponsored the bill as a courtesy to constituents, but after researching it, has embraced the cause.
Now, it's up to the rest of the legislature to embrace the cause, and James and the Florida Cannabis Action Network are there to help them see the light.