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St. Petersburg senator wants rank-and-file lawmakers to take medical pot into their own hands

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While neither legislative leadership nor Gov. Rick Scott have convened a special session on medical marijuana, Sen. Darryl Rouson on Wednesday asked lawmakers to call for one themselves.

Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, joins a chorus of lawmakers who have publicly called for a special session. But he's taking it one step further, asking his colleagues in the Legislature to call a special session themselves, something that hasn't happened in recent memory.

"Every day that passes, we are letting down the 71% of statewide voters and 78% of Senate District 19 voters that supported the medicinal use of marijuana in our state," Rouson wrote in a Wednesday afternoon memo addressed to all 159 state legislators. We must take action as a legislative body and reach a compromise for the people of Florida."

A special session is necessary, many lawmakers have argued, because the Legislature failed to pass a bill implementing medical marijuana during its regular session. This leaves Amendment 2, approved by 71 percent of voters, entirely in the hands of the Florida Department of Health.

Normally, special sessions are called by the governor or by agreement of the House speaker and Senate president. Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, has publicly called for a special session, and President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is mulling one. Scott has so far been mum about calling lawmakers back to Tallahassee.

But the rank-and-file members of the Legislature can do so too. Here's how it works: If 32 of them write letters asking for one, the Department of State is required to poll the whole Legislature. If three-fifths of each chamber (24 senators and 72 representatives) agree, a call for special session is issued.

The odds of that happening are slim. The last attempt at doing so was last summer, over gun control in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting. It failed to hit the three-fifths threshold.

As of Wednesday evening, the Department of State had received no letters from lawmakers calling for a special session on Amendment 2, spokeswoman Sarah Revell said.

Still, at least 14 lawmakers have publicly called for a special session, either on social media or in interviews with the Times/Herald. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, joined the calls Tuesday.

Here's our running list of who has expressed interest in a special session. Note this does not mean they have written it down in a letter to the Department of State, as Rouson has requested:

• Corcoran, in an interview: "I think there should be a special session on medical marijuana."

• House Majority Leader and medical marijuana bill sponsor Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, in an interview: "I obviously support a special session. This is something that's best done by the Legislature rather than leaving it to the Department of Health."

• Medical marijuana bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, on Twitter: "It's 95 percent done. Let's finish the job!"

• Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, in a letter to Negron: "The Senate should agree that the drive of implementation language must be patient focused, not the interests of existing license holders."

• Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, in line to be Senate president in 2018-20, on Twitter: "I agree with (Richard Corcoran). I support a special session to address medical marijuana implementation."

• Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, on Twitter: "I didn't support amendment 2 but we owe it to Floridians to implement it. Let's get it done."

• Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, on Twitter: "The FL Legislature should go back for a special session to deal with medical marijuana. I am ready and willing."

• Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, on Twitter: "I stand with (Richard Corcoran)! Call the special session, and let's do what 71% of Floridans asked us to do back in November."

• Lee, on Twitter: "You can add me to the list. As much as I like being home... I think we had an obligation to get this done and should do so ASAP!"

• Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, on Twitter: "Over 70(!)% of my district voted in favor of med marijuana. I agree with (Speaker Richard Corcoran) — needs to be addressed #ASAP."

• Rouson, in a memo to lawmakers: "Let us not forgo our duties to our constituents and the Constitution of Florida."

• Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, on Twitter: "We need a special session for medical cannabis to respect and implement the will of 71% of FL voters!"

• Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, in line to be House speaker in 2020-22, in an interview: "I hope that we can reconvene in a special session, which should include ample time for public input, to implement the will of the voters, so that patients and entrepreneurs alike may access the marketplace."

• Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, on Twitter: "Agree 100%. Our constituents voted for access to medical marijuana and it is our duty to go back to Tallahassee and work until it's done."

Photo: Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg (Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times)