What’s taken so long to expand Florida’s medical marijuana market?

This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

About time. The state has finally decided to issue more medical marijuana licenses. Florida health officials will accept applications for new licenses in late April, which should help pry open this notoriously closed market. More than six years after voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to authorize medical marijuana in Florida, the state has issued only 22 licenses. Nearly from the start, state leaders have undermined the will of the people on this issue. What happened to all the talk from so many of our state leaders about the importance of free markets? The reluctance to issue new licenses skews the market against everyday Floridians who use medical marijuana. The announcement that the state will grant 22 more licenses is a good step, but even that doesn’t go far enough.

About time (redux). The state attorney general’s office has finally stepped aside and will no longer contest additional DNA testing in the case of death row inmate Tommy Zeigler. Zeigler was convicted of murdering his wife, in-laws and another man at the family’s Winter Garden furniture store on Christmas Eve 1975. Zeigler, who was shot in the stomach that night, has always denied the murders and says he was the victim of a robbery. For years, Zeigler and his attorneys have pushed for an analysis of dozens of pieces of evidence, including never-before-tested fingernail clippings of the victims, the Times Leonora LaPeter reported again this week. Prosecutors have pushed back, saying that Zeigler was twice sentenced to death and that the proposed DNA testing wouldn’t be conclusive as to his guilt or innocence. But Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office recently dropped its appeal to the forensic testing, and the state Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on Tuesday. Zeigler, 77, has been on death row for 47 years. It’s way past time to find out what the additional DNA testing will reveal.

Coming to their senses. It took an emergency meeting, but the Florida High School Athletic Association did the right thing and voted 14-2 that it won’t require high school athletes to disclose their menstrual history to play sports. Until Thursday’s meeting, the organization, which oversees interscholastic athletic programs across the state, was thinking about forcing athletes to answer if they’ve had a menstrual cycle, and if so, when was their first period, their most recent period and how many in the past 12 months. Under the new rules, those four questions are gone, and an athlete’s doctor will be able to keep the medical forms private and submit only the physician’s signature page to the school — which is appropriate. That form simply certifies whether or not an athlete is fit to compete. That’s all a school needs to know. This intensely private information will remain confidential between the athlete and the health care provider. It’s the right result, but it should never have been in question.

Patience rewarded. Good for Bucs great Ronde Barber for making it into the NFL Hall of Fame. It took a few years, but Barber now joins three other hall of famers from the Bucs defense that helped win the 2003 Super Bowl — linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and safety John Lynch. Barber wasn’t as renowned as Brooks or as brassy as Sapp. He didn’t make as many big hits as Lynch. But Barber showed up game after game for 16 seasons, cementing a reputation as one of the greatest slot corners in the league’s history. He was a regular-sized guy in a game full of giants. Still, he thrived. Bucs fans were lucky to get to see him play for so long. Well done, Ronde.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.


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