Politics

Medical marijuana special session in limbo: It’s up to Rick Scott or Joe Negron

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott AP

As support builds for lawmakers to return to the state Capitol to pass medical marijuana language, two of the three men who could call a special session have been quiet about their plans.

Action from either Gov. Rick Scott or Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, could bring lawmakers back to Tallahassee. On Monday, Scott continued to repeat a non-answer his office has put forward since calls for a special session on medical marijuana began May 6.

“I’m looking at all the options,” Scott told reporters at a tourism event in Miami.

Negron, who could jointly call lawmakers into special session with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, on Friday asked senators to weigh in on how to proceed after backroom dealing on medical marijuana fell apart in the final hours of the legislative session.

“I believe we should consider the best way to meet our constitutional obligation to implement Amendment 2,” Negron wrote in the letter.

Corcoran already came out in support.

“There should be a special session on medical marijuana,” he told the Times/Herald last week.

Negron_Joe
Florida Senate President Joe Negron Scott Keeler Tampa Bay Times

Though 71 percent of voters supported last year’s Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana, lawmakers left Tallahassee after a nine-week session without passing a bill to put voters’ wishes into effect. That kicks the issue to the Florida Department of Health, which faces a July 3 deadline to write rules.

There are three ways to convene a special session of the Legislature. Scott could call one on his own, or Negron and Corcoran could do so together. That would likely only happen if they can come to an agreement on what to put in a marijuana bill.

The third option is for three-fifths of both the House and Senate to agree to a special session. That’s unlikely.

The last attempt to call a special session came in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting last June, when Democrats called for action on gun control and failed to get support of the required 72 House members and 24 senators.

In the last week, more lawmakers from both political parties have joined the calls. At least 11 members of the House and Senate have endorsed a return to Tallahassee in interviews with the Times/Herald or with posts on social media.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said he wants a special session but believes lawmakers should go back to the drawing board. He said policy ideas put forward by both chambers were anti-free market and that there should be no limits on the number of growers and sellers.

Corcoran
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran Scott Keeler TAMPA BAY TIMES

As of Monday, here’s which lawmakers have stated support for a special session on medical marijuana:

• Corcoran, in an interview: “I think there should be a special session on medical marijuana.”

• House Majority Leader and medical marijuana bill sponsor Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, in an interview: “I obviously support a special session. This is something that’s best done by the Legislature rather than leaving it to the Department of Health.”

• Medical marijuana bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, on Twitter: “It’s 95 percent done. Let’s finish the job!”

• Brandes, in a letter to Negron: “The Senate should agree that the drive of implementation language must be patient focused, not the interests of existing license holders.”

• Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, in line to be Senate president in 2018-20, on Twitter: “I agree with [Corcoran]. I support a special session to address medical marijuana implementation.”

• Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, on Twitter: “I didn’t support Amendment 2 but we owe it to Floridians to implement it. Let’s get it done.”

• Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, on Twitter: “The FL Legislature should go back for a special session to deal with medical marijuana. I am ready and willing.”

• Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, on Twitter: “I stand with [Corcoran]! Call the special session, and let’s do what 71% of Floridians asked us to do back in November.”

• Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, on Twitter: “Over 70(!)% of my district voted in favor of med marijuana. I agree with [Corcoran] — needs to be addressed #ASAP.”

• Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, in line to be House speaker in 2020-22, in an interview: “I hope that we can reconvene in a special session, which should include ample time for public input, to implement the will of the voters, so that patients and entrepreneurs alike may access the marketplace.”

• Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, on Twitter: “Agree 100%. Our constituents voted for access to medical marijuana and it is our duty to go back to Tallahassee and work until it’s done.”

Miami Herald staff writer Martin Vassolo contributed to this report. Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen

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