Florida Gov. Scott signs abortion, medical marijuana bills

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Florida governor’s mansion and state capitol building. Credit MGN

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that adds new restrictions on abortion and prohibits state money from going to Planned Parenthood.

The measure was among 68 bills he signed into law, including one that would expand the use of medical marijuana to terminal patients.

The abortion bill (HB 1411) is similar to legislation being challenged in court in other states, including Texas. State and federal laws already prohibit public money for abortion but this goes a step further by preventing any state funds from going to any service by an organization that also provides abortions.

Florida becomes the 12th state to remove funding from Planned Parenthood. The organization says it provides services for more than 67,000 patients each year, including more than 11,000 Latinos.

When the law takes effect July 1, it is expected to affect a half-dozen clinics, including Planned Parenthood facilities that serve the poor under Medicaid and other federal programs.

“When HIV rates continue to skyrocket, teen pregnancies rise and the Floridians who need it most can’t access basic care, Rick Scott will have a lot of explaining to do,” said Laura Goodhue, the executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, added that Scott “claims to be for small government, pro-freedom and opposed to putting government in between people and their doctors – except when it comes to Florida’s women.”

The bill also requires doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or that the clinic have a patient transfer agreement.

“Abortionists will finally be held to the same standard as all other physicians who perform invasive procedures in a nonhospital setting by the requirement to have admitting privileges or a transfer agreement with a nearby hospital,” said Ingrid Delgado, associate for social concerns/respect life for the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The medical marijuana bills (HB 307 and 1313) expand the Right to Try Act, allowing medical marijuana use of all strengths and doses for patients with terminal conditions.

The measures also fix problems that arose after the first medical marijuana bill was signed in 2014. That legislation allowed children with epilepsy and those fighting cancer to use nonsmokable marijuana, but they’ve never received it because of challenges setting up the industry.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, allows the five dispensing organizations approved last year to continue but also allows those with administrative challenges a chance to go through due process and possibly get a license.

It also ensures that once the patient registry reaches 250,000, an additional three licenses will be made available, one of which will be designated for black farmers.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said three of the five organizations have cultivation authorization and that dispensing should begin in the summer.

“Gov. Scott and the Legislature have helped a lot of patients receive access to safer therapeutic cannabis products today,” said Susan Driscoll, president of Surterra Therapeutics and managing director of Alpha Foliage. “We are on track to have products to patients as soon as this summer.”

Scott also vetoed his first bill this year (HB 1355), which would have created the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority and allowed the five-person board to be compensated. Similar boards do not pay members.

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