Slouching toward special session on pot

IMG_0600Senate President Joe Negron said Thursday that House and Senate leaders are working toward a deal on the roll-out of a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

Legislators will almost certainly deal with medical marijuana during a special session at some point this summer, even if Gov. Rick Scott’s handling of the budget doesn’t force the Legislature back to the Capitol anyway.

Negron told The News Service of Florida Thursday that “there are ongoing discussions” between the House and Senate focused on “trying to reach a middle ground on the licenses and dispensaries issues.”

The number of marijuana operators — now at seven — and how many retail outlets they can each run were the major sticking points between the two chambers during the regular session that ended last month.

The Senate favored more vendors but wanted to limit the number of storefronts they could operate. The House supported a plan with fewer marijuana operators who could each open up to 100 retail stores.

A potential deal went up in smoke on the final day of the session, prompting both critics and supporters of Amendment 2 to demand a special session to address the issue. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, has said he supports a special session on pot, as do Senate leaders, including Sen. Bill Galvano, who will take over as president late next year, and Negron.

The House and Senate are discussing “other ancillary issues” apart from the numbers of licenses and dispensaries, the Senate president said Thursday.

“But if we can reach a consensus on the regulatory framework for implementation of Amendment 2, I think the other issues will fall into place,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

It’s unclear whether Scott’s line-item vetoes will require lawmakers to return to deal with the budget.

But Negron said lawmakers have “an obligation to implement medical marijuana” regardless of how the budget fares.

“Obviously, if a special session became necessary on the budget and medical marijuana, it would make sense to hold them simultaneously, but I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.