Senate Health Policy Committee chairwoman looking for “sweet spot” with pot bills

Senate Health Policy Committee Chairwoman Dana Young will hold a workshop to try to reach consensus on how to implement a constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall, that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients.

Young, R-Tampa, told The News Service of Florida Wednesday she intends to hold the workshop during the third week of the legislative session, which kicked off yesterday.

Young said she’s hoping to find the “sweet spot” between patient access and appropriate regulation to use as the basis for the ultimate proposal.

Five separate marijuana measures now are floating in the Senate, including one co-sponsored by Young, and the House released its version of the implementation bill on the opening day of session.

All of the proposals would allow the state’s current pot growers to continue to provide marijuana for the vastly expanded market of patients under the new addition to the constitution.

But the measures also incorporate vastly different approaches, ranging from the number of additional licenses to where dispensaries can be located.

“We will workshop all of the bills that have been filed in the Senate and we will take input from members, try to answer questions and get as much information out to the committee members and to the public on each of the bills,” Young said. “I would anticipate we would put together a committee bill — I don’t have any idea what that would look like —  and probably bring it up the following week.”

Young’s no stranger to controversial and complicated issues; she sponsored a major gambling overhaul a few years ago, but that proposal ultimately failed to pass.

In contrast, lawmakers are intent on passing a measure to implement the constitutional amendment, which nearly 72 percent of voters supported in November.

“It’s sort of like gaming in a different costume,” Young said Wednesday. “But all kidding aside, this is very important. If we don’t do this right and implement this right, our constituents are going to be very angry. And I feel an obligation to do it right, even if I may not love everything, personally, in the bill. We have got to make sure, above all else, that patients have access, wide access. We need to make sure that patients that can appropriately benefit from this medication, that they can get it in an appropriately regulated market. That is the sweet spot. I’ve got to find the sweet spot between patient access and appropriate regulation.”

_ Posted by Dara Kam