14 March 2017

First Coast News Reports…

The first steps towards more research in the field of medical cannabis in the Sunshine State were taken recently in Tallahassee.

Florida State Senator Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, filed Senate Bill 1472 that, if enacted, would effectively establish a marijuana research coalition inside the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Fla.

With marijuana remaining a Schedule I narcotic at the federal level – in the same classification as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and heroin – proper funding and permission to perform clinical studies have been a constant struggle to obtain.

“Right now, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting the positive benefits medicinal cannabis can have on patients in certain circumstances,” Galvano said, “but this legislation will help the State of Florida advance the science and research around cannabis as a treatment option for a variety of medical conditions.”

The Senate bill, cited as the “Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Act,” would be used to conduct “rigorous scientific research, provide education, disseminate research and to guide policy for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for the medicinal use of cannabis,” as it reads in its current version.

The bill would establish a seven-member research and education board, all of whom would be appointed by the chief executive officer at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. The members would serve four-year terms, with the chair being elected by board members and serving for a total of two years.

“We are excited to partner with Sen. Galvano in support of this important legislation that will expand the research opportunities available to medical experts in the state to provide empirical evidence on the potential benefits and harms of medical cannabis,” said Moffitt Cancer Center Director Thomas Sellers.

The board would meet no less than semiannually at the will of the chair, or vice chair, in the event of an absence or incapacity. Members of the established board would serve without compensation but have the option for reimbursement of travel expenses by the coalition.

A marijuana research coalition director, pending approval of the board, would be responsible for budget oversight, as well as identifying and prioritizing what types of research would be conducted by the coalition. Funding for research and experimentation would come from state-backed grants the director would submit applications for.

A report of research findings would be submitted annually to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on February 15. The report would include community outreach initiatives and the coalition’s plans going forward.

“Florida is a leader in developing innovative health care solutions, and creating opportunities for researchers in our state to responsibly inform new medicines and treatment options is a top priority,” said Galvano.

A piece of companion legislation, House Bill 1177, was filed by Florida State Representative Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and has since been referred to the Health Quality Subcommittee in the House. If approved, the act would take effect on July 1, 2017.