A pair of Florida lawmakers want to make medical marijuana even cheaper for veterans. 

State Sen. Janet Cruz and state Rep. Adam Hattersley, both Democrats, have introduced a bill that would waive the registration fee for veterans seeking medical cannabis treatment.

Patients in Florida must register for a new medical marijuana card each year, which costs $75 annually. 

“So it’s not a huge burden, but any small thing that we can do to help veterans get the treatment they deserve, I think we need to do,” Hattersley said, as quoted by public radio station WUSF.

Hattersley is a Navy veteran who earned a Bronze Star for his service in the Iraq War who represents a growing chorus of military advocates and policymakers who believe in cannabis as a legitimate treatment option for service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Democratic presidential hopefuls like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have publicly voiced support for allowing veterans to access medical marijuana.  

A paper published earlier this month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology offered further support for that movement, finding preliminary evidence “that cannabis use may contribute to reducing the association between post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depressive and suicidal states.” 

The authors of the study also noted “an emerging need for high-quality experimental investigation of the efficacy of cannabis/cannabinoids for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Will The Bill Pass?

Given the fact that marijuana remains banned under the federal Controlled Substances Act, it may be a long time before the military fully embraces pot. In August, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a directive strictly prohibiting all service members from entering cannabis dispensaries.

The legislation introduced by Cruz and Hattersley, who both represent Hillsborough County, Florida, will be taken up in the 2020 legislative session. 

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a measure in 2016 that legalized medical marijuana, but a year later, the state’s Republican governor at the time, Rick Scott, signed a law prohibiting the smoking of cannabis in all forms. That changed earlier this year, when the state’s current governor, Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, signed a law overturning the ban.

Florida voters could soon get the chance to go even further with marijuana reform. Two separate groups of advocates are currently circulating petitions to propose a pair of similar questions on the Florida ballot next year: both proposals would permit any Florida adult 21 or older to possess marijuana and consume it in private, but only one would also permit Floridians to also grow cannabis at home.

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