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Proposed medical marijuana rule under fire from advocates

New legislation dealing with Amendment 2 could be filed next week

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Will Florida voters get what they asked for when they voted to legalize medical marijuana? That's the question because a proposed rule implementing voters' intentions isn't finding favor with the amendment's authors.

Just 1,800 people currently qualify for either low- or high-THC medical marijuana in Florida. All come under the law approved before voters overwhelmingly said yes to Amendment 2 in November.

During a legislative hearing, the state said it is trying to force Amendment 2 regulations into existing law.

"We believe that there is a way the current framework can be wedded to Amendment 2," Office of Compassionate Use director Christian Bax said.

Advocates said the state is basically trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, trying to use an old regulatory scheme when voters asked for something completely different.

The proposed rule has two major problems, said advocates. It attempts to keep just the seven approved growers who also distribute and sell without adding more.

Marijuana lobbyist Ron Watson said that's a problem for consumers.

"Imagine you had a pharmacy and the only thing you could get at the pharmacy was made by one manufacturer," Watson said. "You would have a Merck pharmacy and the only way to get Astrazeneca product is to drive across town and go to another pharmacy to get it."

A second problem is the constitutional language that allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for unlisted debilitating diseases. The rule wants a medical board to approve those diseases, but constitutional author Ben Pollera said that's not what people intended.

"I think it's pretty clear in black and that this is decision be made by the physician treating patients," Pollera said.

New legislation dealing with Amendment 2 could be filed as early as next week.

The public hearings are scheduled for the week of Feb. 6 and are being held:

-2 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Duval County Health Department, 900 University Blvd. North in Jacksonville
-10 a.m. on Feb. 7 at Broward County Health Department, 780 SW 24th Street in Fort Lauderdale
-9 a.m. on Feb. 8 at the Florida Department of Health, Tampa Branch Laboratory, 3602 Spectrum Blvd.
-6 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Orange County Health Department, 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive in Orlando; and
-4 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148 in Tallahassee.