JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wading into the debate about medical marijuana, three Republican state senators filed a bill that would legalize a marijuana extract that supporters say can help children with a form of epilepsy.
The bill, filed by two local senators and one senator in southwest Florida, is similar to a House proposal that had already been filed.
Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island, Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach, and Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, have all signed onto the measure that would legalize a marijuana extract that supporters say can help children with a form of epilepsy.
Many people may be surprised Republicans are behind the bill, but Bradley said it's about helping those in need.
"I think it's incumbent on us as lawmakers to take the politics out of the issue and take a serious look at whether we can provide a relief to these families that are suffering," Bradley said.
The bill comes ahead of a November ballot question on a much broader proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana.
The Senate and House bills focus on a substance that has a relatively small amount of THC, the component in marijuana that gives a user a high.
Bradley said one family's story inspired him to file the bill.
Peyton Moseley's 10-year-old daughter, RayAnn, suffers with severe epilepsy. The family would like RayAnn to try medical marijuana to see if it helps her condition.
When the legislative session begins in March, Florida's leaders will hear from affected families, along with doctors.
"We're going to hear from these families and make sure this is done in a way that is done that doesn't have unintended consequences," Bradley said.
Unintended consequences include this form of marijuana falling into the hands of someone who doesn't need treatment.
That's why Bradley said what he wants legalized is the non-smokable form that's delivered by drops under the tongue and doesn't make someone high.
Bradley said the hope is to introduce medical marijuana in a responsible way so it doesn't become a problem, even though some people may not favor the bill.
"It's the right thing to do and we were all elected to do the right thing," Bradley said.
If passed, hundreds of children could qualify to use this form of treatment.