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Backers of medical marijuana in Florida seek to assuage concerns

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - Backers of a ballot initiative that would legalize wider use of medical marijuana in Florida are working to assuage some voters’ concerns before the November election about how the drug would be regulated.

A newly formed group called Florida For Care is planning to draft proposed rules for how medical marijuana will be managed if voters approve a constitutional amendment making it legal in the state.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law last month that legalized but strictly limits the distribution of a non-euphoric strain of marijuana believed to reduce epileptic seizures.

November's referendum is a broader proposal that would allow physicians to recommend the regular form of marijuana to people with debilitating ailments.

Florida For Care Chairman Jon Mills, dean of the University of Florida’s law school, said the group will directly address frequently mentioned worries about what will happen if medical marijuana is legalized.

“Does this mean anybody who has a headache can have access to medical marijuana? The answer is no,” Mills said, citing one example.

The group was launched by Ben Pollara, executive director of United for Care, which got the amendment on the ballot and is campaigning for its passage.

But it includes members who oppose medical marijuana such as its vice chairman, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a former Florida Senate majority leader.

Mills said the group will address issues such as a patient registry and identification cards, and the role of doctors.

The group held its first meeting by telephone on Thursday, but public meetings are planned, he said.

Mills said they hope to have established the broad principles of medical marijuana use and regulation before election day, and fill in the details afterward as a resource for the state legislature’s decisions.

Calling medical marijuana's passage in November inevitable, a group of Colorado "ganjapreneurs" met in Miami on Friday in the hopes of laying the ground work for a network of dispensaries and growing operations.

While the details of the regulatory system for Florida's would-be marijuana industry remain unclear, Colorado advocates said hopeful growers should begin getting their infrastructure in place ahead of November.

"You’re going to need real estate, you’re going to need funding," said KC Grant, a former Colorado dispensary owner who now consults for marijuana businesses. "If you’re going to wait for the game to kick off you’re going to lose."

(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Editing by David Adams and Eric Beech)

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