By Ashley Killough
(CNN) — Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said he would sign a bill that legalizes a limited strain of medical marijuana.
The state House passed the measure on Thursday, and the state Senate is expected to pass it on Friday, the last day of the legislative session. Both houses are controlled by Republicans.
“I’m a parent and grandparent. I want to make sure my children, my grandchildren have the access to the health care they want,” the Republican governor, who’s up for re-election this year, told reporters Thursday. “If it passes I’m going to sign it.”
The type of marijuana, which is low in THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), is aimed to help those suffering from epilepsy, as well as some cancer patients and those with persistent muscle spasms or seizures and who don’t respond well to other medications, according to the Miami Herald. Qualified children will also have access to the strain.
Scott’s support for the bill came as a surprise for many in Florida, as the governor said in January he would not support a ballot initiative this November that would legalize medical marijuana through a constitutional amendment.
“I have a great deal of empathy for people battling difficult diseases and I understand arguments in favor of this initiative,” he said in a statement provided to CNN by a spokesman. “But, having seen the terrible affects (sic) of alcohol and drug abuse first-hand, I cannot endorse sending Florida down this path and I would personally vote against it.”
Recent polls in the state show strong, bipartisan support for the amendment.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released in November, 82% of Florida voters support legalizing medical marijuana, while 16% oppose it. Breaking it down by party lines, 87% of Democrats support it, as did 70% of Republicans.
The use of marijuana for medical reasons is legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s challenging Scott this year in the gubernatorial election as a Democrat, has said he supports the ballot initiative.
— CNN’s Steve Brusk contributed to this report.
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