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Florida lawmakers work to change medical marijuana program as 2022 legislative session begins

Marijuana Legalization
Posted at 7:05 AM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 05:49:46-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida's 2022 legislative session kicks off on Tuesday and this year lawmakers are working to pass a bipartisan medical marijuana bill.

Florida doesn’t have recreational marijuana and for its medical marijuana program, people have to have a valid medical reason and need to be able to get the marijuana prescribed.

“Then you’re referred to a what’s called a vertically integrated MMTC so that company is going to grow your product, distribute your product, and that’s also who you’re going to buy it from,” said Andrew Learned, District 59 Representative.

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House Bill 679 would change Florida’s medical cannabis program, offering several technical clarifications.

“I think the first thing to understand about 679 is this is the first bipartisan marijuana package we’ve really run as a state in five years since the constitutional amendment passed. Just getting both sides to agree on a way forward, I count this as a win already,” said Learned.

The bill would reduce costs for people by requiring fewer doctor’s visits, allow patients to keep their registration cards for two years instead of one, and give people the option to use telehealth to refill their prescriptions.

“It’s about access. You know, it’s about making things more affordable for people. I think one of the problems that we’ve had is that some people just can’t afford the doctor’s appointments and the frequency,” said Dr. David Berger, Board Certified Pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care.

“Ultimately it’s reducing the cost on the patient by about 60% or more,” said Learned.

House Bill 679 also regulates the use and sale of delta-8, a marijuana product with less THC.

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“It’s still legal we’re just changing some definitions and making sure the product is safe and tested, and we’re also limiting them to the sale of over 21. Right now there’s no age limit so children can buy this stuff,” said Learned.

He said this legislation improves Florida’s medical marijuana program in a way that makes things safer and more practical.

“This does things like, again, like keeping harmful products out of the hands of children, it’s making sure that we clean up advertising statues so we aren’t inadvertently advertising medical marijuana products in general to minors. It’s improving the program from a practical use perspective like I said with telehealth but also things like DUI testing and creating testing councils for that. Making sure products are safe and that a hemp product for example, like a CBD really is a CBD. Right now there’s no testing requirement pre-sale,” said Learned.

Some advocates of this bill say the biggest improvement that could come from the legislation is allowing telehealth.

"Especially in the pediatric population where I have patients all over the state. People, kids with special needs who just can’t get in. We also had adults who’ve gone into hospice who just couldn’t get to the office anymore. This would really benefit a lot of people,” said Berger.