Florida lawmakers extol virtues of medical pot - FOX 13 News

Florida lawmakers extol virtues of medical pot

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TALLAHASSEE (AP) -

The federal government has "dropped the ball for the last 30 or 40 years" in its marijuana policy and Florida is ready to pick it up, Sen. Jeff Clemens said Monday, expressing confidence that this November's ballot initiative to legalize medicinal pot will pass.

"This `50 and `60s era reefer madness attitude caused us to turn away from a plant as form of medicine and move to these synthetic drugs that are often a lot worse for our bodies," said Clemens, D-Lake Worth. He was part of a bipartisan trio of lawmakers speaking at the Doubletree Hotel ballroom on the future of medical marijuana in the state.

In a panel discussion Monday Clemens joined Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards and Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz to pledge a push for passage of so-called Charlotte's Web, a non-intoxicating oil extracted from the marijuana plant.

Gaetz in particular has been pushing a bill (HB 843) that would approve the oil extract, in tear-jerker hearings that have been marked by testimony from parents of children with intractable epilepsy and have heard of successful treatment via the oil in Colorado, where it is legal.

Several bills concerning marijuana are moving in and around the statehouse, from a bill that would legalize all use of pot to the very specific measure Gaetz and Edwards are carrying.

The panel agreed that passage of a limited-use measure, aimed at treating children afflicted by epilepsy, would help because it could establish a framework for what all agreed was the inevitable passage of a ballot proposal to alter the state constitution and legalize marijuana for medicinal use.

"I see what we're doing here as a framework, and while a lot of my colleagues don't want to talk about where we go after Charlotte's Web, there's a potential to make a lot of money and help a lot of people " Clemens said. "I fully expect the constitutional amendment to pass this fall and were going to be right back here next year and having to implement a full system of medical marijuana and we'll have compressed time frame to do it. "

By getting in front of the distribution problems that so many other states have had, Edwards said, the state could overcome the "hodgepodge" rules that plague the states with legalized medicinal pot.

By planning for research and infrastructure, she envisioned a "cannabis corridor in this state for research and development. Why can't I have a Duke University research triangle that brings high paying jobs in the research sector here to work with an already existing population of Florida families?"

A research operation of cannabis investors, ArcView, puts the legal cannabis market value at $1.53 million in 2013, and projects a 68 percent increase for this year.

"I suspect we are on a cautious walk forward, and this is the first step," Gaetz said.

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