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House members back pot for terminal patients

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Continuing to consider how many nurseries should take part in the industry, a House panel Monday approved a bill that would allow patients with terminal illnesses to legally use medical marijuana.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee voted 9-2 for the bill (HB 307) after making a change that reduced the number of nurseries known as "dispensing organizations," which would be able to cultivate, process and sell the substances.

A 2014 law that allows non-euphoric types of cannabis included a limit of five dispensing organizations. The bill approved Monday would allow broader types of marijuana for patients with terminal illnesses and is an expansion of another law known as the "Right to Try Act," which allows patients to have access to experimental drugs that have not been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Before Monday, the bill would have allowed 20 dispensing organizations. But bill sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, requested that the subcommittee reduce that number to the same five allowed under the 2014 low-THC law. He said the requested change stemmed from trying to eliminate additional costs.

Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who is sponsoring the bill with Gaetz, asked members of the panel to take a "patient-centered approach" and approve the measure. Subcommittee Chairman Matt Hudson, R-Naples, and Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, voted against the bill, with Harrell saying more research needs to be done about the safety and efficacy of the substances.