Session on verge of collapse as Florida GOP leaders feud

Hope Soto
June 10, 2017

On the opening day of a special legislative session, Florida senators Wednesday began moving forward with a proposal to send more money to hospitals for treating Medicaid patients.

While they were at it, the lawmakers passed an implementing bill for the medical marijuana constitutional amendment the voters approved previous year.

An even more controversial component of the measure -- whether to allow patients to smoke marijuana products -- isn't new but was the subject of debate Thursday in the House and Senate.

Florida became the first state with a law that spells out that prosecutors, and not defendants, have the burden of proof in pretrial "stand your ground" hearings when Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday.

On Thursday, Negron vehemently insisted he was not a party to the agreement reached last week between Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, to return to the Capitol and demanded that Senate priorities be addressed. If legislators fail to reach a final deal, schools could lose billions in funding. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, filed identical legislation during last year's legislative session and initially, the bill's future seemed promising. Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the House's bill.

The deal would allow each marijuana operator to run up to 25 dispensaries throughout the state, a significant concession from the House, which originally wanted to uphold unlimited retail outlets now permitted in state law. The Senate later signed off on the measure with a 29-6 vote.

The constitutional amendment made medical marijuana legal for what is expected to be hundreds of thousands of patients with debilitating conditions.

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Medical marijuana legislation has emerged as possibly the only issue garnering compromise during this tumultuous special session.

"For every 100,000 patients added to the state registry, there would be four more licenses issued, and all growers could add five more dispensaries".

According to the Department of Health, the state registry now has 16,614 patients.

Negron viewed the dike project as in keeping with SB 10, his big Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration project, approved during the regular session.

Edwards said proponents are using social media -- including a #nosmokeisajoke Twitter campaign -- to pressure lawmakers to approve smoking, but the question of what the amendment actually requires remains unanswered.

"It's clear the language is written to benefit specific groups and specific companies", said Sen.

In the end, it was a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Republican governor who just weeks earlier was complaining that legislators had approved a new state budget that would derail the economy and kill jobs. "I think that is why you are seeing the Senate capitulate", Brandes said. He said the state money would allow the work to get started. "People are counting on something getting done", said John Morgan, who played a key role in getting the amendment on the ballot and passed.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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