National opinion surveys are showing increasing support for medical uses of marijuana. Patients are puffing away legally in 18 states and the climate for medicinal pot has even become more welcoming in Florida.
Is Florida about to become State No. 19?
The question arose during the WLRN/Miami Herald Town Hall before the legislative session began. The questioner was Juan Palenzuela of Hollywood:
"Some of my friends are sick with diseases that may potentially be treated with cannabis. I understand the Legislature is considering a medical marijuana bill this year. Is it likely to pass?"
Sorry, Juan. But probably not. Bills filed by Democratic State Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Democratic State Rep. Katie Edwards of Plantation are not likely to get hearings before the session ends.
Jodi James is lobbying for the bill. She's executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. She didn't get a meeting with House Speaker Will Weatherford, but she did sit down with his staff and emerged with the conclusion that Waterford is more neutral than hostile toward medical marijuana.
"The speaker is going to let nature take its course," James said. "He's not opposed to this and he isn't taking a position on the bill right now.
Clemens, the senate sponsor, says Florida's bill has none of the flaws that made California's medical marijuana plan a cover for de facto legalization. His legislation would set up a tightly controlled system of production and distribution with prescriptions allowed for only a tight handful of catastrophic illnesses.
"In California, if you have a sore elbow, you can get a prescription for medical marijuana," Clemens said. "That's not what we're looking to do here. We're talking about serious illness -- ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, things that are serious, Parkinson's disease.
Clemens, who has filed similar bills in previous years, is philosophical about medical marijuana's immediate outlook. He's given up hoping for a committee hearing that could pave the way to passage but he thinks there might still be a workshop…a committee discussion of the issue in a safe space with no senator having to go dangerously on the record in favor of marijuana.