The latest push to legalize medical marijuana in Florida has suffered a major setback.
The Florida Sheriff's Association has voted 38-2 to oppose a bill filed by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would allow physicians to prescribe cannabis for specific illnesses.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was among the 38.
The sheriff's association released "core legislative principles" that a pot bill must include to win its support. Among those: Medical marijuana cannot be prescribed for general pain, and it cannot be smoked. Both would be allowed under Brandes' bill.
A "core principle" endorsed by the sheriffs is to limit use to terminally ill patients and those with specific diseases such as cancer, AIDS and epilepsy. And the marijuana would be taken orally.
"You don't smoke medicine," Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times.
A constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida garnered 58 percent of the vote last November, falling just shy of the 60 percent it needed to pass. The new approach is to legalize through legislation.
Gualtieri told the Times he studied the bill further and found too many things he couldn't support, such as muscle spasms as a qualifying diagnosis. But Gualtieri, who chairs the association's legislative lobbying committee, said the sheriffs would work with Brandes and other lawmakers to try and craft a bill the association could support.
Brandes told the Times he looks forward to working with the sheriffs, but he does not intend to change the provisions on pain or smoking.
"It's my position to let physicians make medical decisions," Brandes told the newspaper.