The ride may have been a little bumpy, but Florida lawmakers managed to avert a crash landing at the end their three day special session.
When it was all said and done, legislators accomplished their three primary goals: increase public school funding for grades K-12, restore funding to the state’s tourism marketing agency and create an $85 grant fund that will supply funding for job training and infrastructure needs designed to promote economic development.
They also managed to reach agreement on a bill implementing the medical marijuana amendment that was approved by 71 percent of the voters back in November.
“We are committed to fulfilling our constitutional duty to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters,” said Senator Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park. “This patient-first legislation removes barriers for both patients and physicians, expanding access to this medicine.”
There is one provision of the implementing bill that caused concern for some lawmakers. The bill says medicinal marijuana can not be smoked. It can only be ingested through edible products or vaporized.
Critics say that goes against the will of the voters.
“I believe they all thought that the way they would be using this medicine for medical purposes is by smoking. I think that’s what everybody believes in their heart,” said Sen. Kevin Rader, Boca Raton. “So by not allowing them to smoke is going against what they believed and wanted.”
“If we are going to treat this as a drug and this drug is a medicine, it needs to be administered in a form that will not cause further harm for patients,” said Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.
The smooth landing for this special session was crafted through a series of behind the scenes negotiations that went on throughout the day.
As part of those negotiations, education funding for grades K-12 will increase by $100 per student over a year ago. Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, will have it’s funding restored to $76 million dollars. And the state will create a $85 million grant fund that will be controlled by Gov. Rick Scott that will issue money for job training and infrastructure improvements as part of the state’s economic development efforts.
The agreement also includes $60 million to be shared by the state’s universities and colleges for 17 projects that Scott had vetoed from the budget a week ago. Scott could veto some or all of those projects the second time around.
Lawmakers also agreed to allocate $50 million for repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that borders Lake Okeechobee and is designed to control flooding during storms.