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Medical Marijuana for Terminally Ill Bill Moves Forward in State Legislature

A bill that would give the terminally ill in Florida the "right to try" medical marijuana is moving through the Florida Legislature smoothly. Introduced by Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz and state Sen. Rob Bradley last month, the bill passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee in a 9-4 bipartisan vote. The Senate Health Policy Committee also OKed the measure unanimously in a sign that circumstances are shaping up favorably for the bill's passage. 

Florida has already legalized a very limited medical marijuana program in the "Charlotte's Web" law that would allow some patients to have access to a strain of non-euphoric marijuana oil. Though, well over a year since its passage the state still hasn't initiated the program yet. 

This latest bill would add marijuana to Florida's "right to try" law. It allows terminally ill patients who have exhausted traditional treatment to try experimental medication. 

The law describes a terminal condition as one that "will result in death within one year after diagnosis if the condition runs its normal course" and is not considered reversible by available medicines or procedures. So we're still talking about a rather limited number of patients, and the language would not lead to wider use of medical marijuana as seen in other states. 

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Taking a humane angle, even more conservative members of the subcommittee were swayed.  Rep. Katie Edwards noted that medical marijuana would give patients “precious lucid moments with relatives before the Lord takes them,” according to Politico

An amendment was also added to the bill that would up the number of state approved farms that could grow medical marijuana from 5 to 20 after concerns were brought forth by the Black Caucus. Under the old rules, black farmers would have been almost completely frozen out of a chance to get a license from the state to grow legal weed. 

Of course, this bill could end up being academic if voters follow the polling trends on a new amendment to bring widespread medical pot to the state. A similar amendment narrowly failed in 2014, failing to meet the 60 percent threshold needed for passage. 

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