With patients in Florida who suffer from debilitating illnesses soon to have access to medical marijuana, one state lawmaker says a research facility should open to study the drug’s effects on patients.
“I think it’s highly appropriate to have a research component built into anything that we do, so we can start building real evidence because we don’t have that,” Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said Monday during a Bradenton Herald Editorial Board meeting.
Amendment 2, which inserts language into the Florida Constitution allowing medical marijuana, was approved by voters earlier this month. With the amendment not taking effect until Jan. 3, both Manatee County and Bradenton are working toward enacting 180-day moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensing facilities.
This Thursday, the county commission will have the first of two required public hearings to enact the temporary moratorium during the commission’s Land Use meeting. The second public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 13.
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As a supporter of medical marijuana, Galvano said he would like to work with Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa on establishing a research facility, which would initially be cancer-based.
“Most of our evidence is anecdotal, so I’m going to work to see if we can establish a real research facility for medical marijuana,” he said. “We are going to be able to better apply it to the marketplace. ...You can’t just ignore some of these anecdotal types of stories as to how this positively impacted certain conditions.”
Galvano’s vision for the medical marijuana research facility at Moffitt comes as the cancer center announced plans for an $800 million expansion over the next decade. On Monday, Moffitt unveiled the plans, which include “two new research buildings, a new clinical support building, a new hospital wing and additional outpatient facilities,” a news release stated.
Now that the medical marijuana amendment has passed, the state Legislature must figure out how to best implement it, Galvano said.
“Just because there is an amendment doesn’t guarantee that it is a reality,” he said. “There will be challenges in the implementation and how that works. The question of licensure will still come up again in terms of how many licenses there are right now. That’s something we will have to look at and that should have significant debate. The amendment doesn’t get into any of it. Like any of these, we will have to figure out how to best implement and then regulate, too.”
During Galvano’s meeting with the Herald Editorial Board, the future Senate president also highlighted some of his priorities with the next legislative session approaching. Education, ride-sharing services such as Uber and a long-term budget are among Galvano’s priorities.
“I don’t want to have to deal with a $2.8 billion deficit all at once in 2018,” Galvano said. “We are going to have to work toward that goal.”
Since 2018 is the year Galvano is expected to become Senate president, he said is “very acutely aware” of the looming deficit.
“That is a big number,” Galvano said, adding that lawmakers should be proactive in “chipping away” at the number each year leading up to 2018.
In terms of future political aspirations, Galvano said if there are opportunities, he would consider going beyond the Senate.
“I have a lot ahead of me over the next four years. I just finished as majority leader and now building up to a Senate presidency in 2018. I am going to put my focus on that,” he said. “I just don’t want to make a plan for tomorrow when I have work to do today.”