Governor vetoes millions proposed for marijuana research

Published: Jun. 5, 2017 at 6:01 PM CDT
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Among the $409 million in projects vetoed by Governor Rick Scott are three line items that would have provided just over $3 million to Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Florida. The budget called for the money to be used to begin studying medical marijuana.

Because marijuana is considered a dangerous drug under federal law, research on how cannabis works and any side effects are few and far between. State Senator Bill Galvano pushed for lawmakers to change the status quo and get answers.

"I want to know the real effects. What are the negative effects? What are the downsides?" asked Senator Galvano in May.

Lawmakers responded with $2 million going to the University of Florida and just over $1 million to Moffitt Cancer Center, but the funding didn't make it past the governor.

In vetoing the marijuana research cash, Governor Scott wrote that UF and Moffitt both had plenty of money to fund the research on their own. Marijuana lobbyist Jeff Sharkey said the vetoes are ill times.

"Research allows doctors and physicians to understand the impact of medical marijuana on these various conditions. This was a start to move this process forward," Sharkey said.

And, while Florida lags, in Canada, a government-sanctioned medical marijuana grower, Tilray, has a full-time medical doctor on staff. We traveled to the grow house as part of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"You can start looking, for example, plants that MLS patients tend to use at a higher majority than other people with different symptoms," said Tilray's Medical Director Dr. Richard Lucas.

Lawmakers will be back in the capitol Wednesday, but medical marijuana isn't on their agenda. It could be added, but it is highly unlikely they will try and revive the research money, which is another way of saying research will have to wait at least another year.

Governor Scott vetoed $370,000 tied to Moffitt because lawmakers didn't pass a bill setting up regulations for medical marijuana. Now, unless lawmakers act, the Department of Health will decide how to regulate medical cannabis.