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Florida House OKs Experimental Drugs For Dying Patients

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — If a doctor says you are about to die then you have the "Right To Try" according to a bill passed unanimously by the House that would let people use experimental drugs. However, marijuana was still left off the table.

The "Right To Try Act" – which passed on Thursday – will only apply to drugs that have gone through the first phase of federal testing, though several lawmakers are still hoping marijuana will be included in the legislation if it eventually passes the full Legislature. A doctor also has to give their patient a diagnosis less than a year to live.

And one Republican lawmaker made it clear that even though marijuana isn't included in the bill, Floridians who are terminally ill should go ahead and smoke it anyway.

"The right to try represents a core value protected by our Constitution, and if you are facing death and there is a substance you want to use for your personal health that is not set forth in this legislation, assert your constitutional right and use it," said Rep. John Wood.

Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards responded to the remarks by saying, "Amen, amen, amen."

An effort to put marijuana language in House Bill 269 was aborted to let it to go through with strong support. Lawmakers agreed that allowing experimental drugs already under federal review is appropriate for people about to die, even if, like Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley, they don't support medical marijuana.

"These are drugs that are tried, these are drugs that have been through examination, these are drugs that we have control of — quantity, quality, intensity, some kind of dosage," said Baxley.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said he hopes a Senate bill with the marijuana provision comes back to the House. He said applying it only to the terminally ill ensures that it won't be abused by people just looking to get high.

"They have to get a doctor to sign that they have less than a year to live. This is a group of people who are not buying green bananas," said Gaetz.

The most emotional testimony came from Republican Rep. Debbie Mayfield. Her husband, then-Rep. Stan Mayfield, was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and told he had three months to live. She said he was given trial drugs that shrunk his tumors and extended his life a year and a half. But because the drugs didn't have federal approval, he had to stop taking them. He died a short time later.

"There is nothing harder than to come home from a hospital and have to tell your children at the age of 12 and at the age of 14 and at the age of 17 that their dad is going to die now because we cannot get the drugs that he's needed to keep him alive," said Mayfield, who added she explained to her 12-year-old that the drugs were illegal. "His comment was, 'Then change the law. That's what you guys do.'"

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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