TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Among the $409 million in projects vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott were three line items that would have provided just more than $3 million to the Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Florida.
The budget called for the money to be used to begin studying medical marijuana.
But because marijuana is considered a dangerous drug under federal law, research on how cannabis works and its side effects is few and far between.
State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, pushed for lawmakers to change the status quo and get answers.
“I want to know the real effects,” Galvano said on May 2. “What are the negative effects? What are the downsides?”
Lawmakers responded with $2 million going to the University of Florida and just more than $1 million to the Moffitt Cancer Center, but the funding didn’t make it past the governor.
In vetoing the marijuana research cash, Scott wrote that the university and the cancer center had plenty of money to fund the research on their own.
But marijuana lobbyist Jeff Sharkey said the vetoes are ill-timed.
“Research allows doctors and physicians to understand the impact of medical marijuana on these various conditions,” said Sharkey, of the Medical Marijuana Business Association. “This was a start to move this process forward.”
While Florida lags, in Canada, one government-sanctioned medical marijuana grower has a full-time medical doctor on staff. A reporter traveled to the grow-house as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“You can start looking. For example, plants that MLS patients tend to use at a higher majority than other people with different symptoms,” said Dr. Richard Lucas, the medical director at Tilray, which conducts medical cannabis research.
Florida lawmakers will be back in the Capitol on Wednesday, but medical marijuana isn’t on their agenda. It could be added, but it is highly unlikely they will try and revive the research money, which is another way of saying research will have to wait at least another year.
Scott vetoed $370,000 tied to the Moffitt Cancer Center because lawmakers didn’t pass a bill setting up regulations for medical marijuana. Unless lawmakers act, the Department of Health will decide how to regulate medical cannabis.
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