Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Minus Scott Wish List
By Dara Kam, The News Service of florida // April 28, 2014
Supporters of Effort Estimate Plan Could Help 150,000 Florida Children Who Suffer Seizures
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — As an 11-year-old Panhandle girl who helped change the minds of leery lawmakers looked on, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a proposal Monday legalizing a strain of marijuana that could stop life-threatening seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy.
After the 36-3 vote, RayAnn Moseley, accompanied by her mother Holley, awarded the three Senate sponsors of the measure (SB 1030) hand-drawn pictures of a bright yellow sun against a blue background overarched by the words “Ray of Hope.”
RayAnn, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy as well as cerebral palsy, has become the Florida “poster child” for a strain of marijuana that is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Parents whose children have taken the drug, which is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, say it dramatically reduces seizures that can be fatal.
Supporters of the effort estimate the strain of marijuana, known as “Charlotte’s Web,” could help about 150,000 Florida children like RayAnn who suffer up to hundreds of seizures per day.
The Senate debated the proposal for nearly an hour after bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and former prosecutor, introduced RayAnn, who was sitting in the gallery.
“Let me be clear about something,” Bradley said. “I oppose the legalization of marijuana. My wife Jennifer and I have spoken to our three teenagers about the dangers of drug use. My kids understand the difference between the abuse of an illegal substance and the legitimate use of this plant to help suffering children. I’m confident that Floridians understand this difference as well.”
The Senate plan is backed by the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Sheriffs’ Association, but is missing some of the elements Gov. Rick Scott is seeking and which are included in the House version (HB 843).
Scott wants patients to enroll in clinical trials and wants the Department of Health to create an “Office of Compassionate Use” that would “enhance access to investigational new drugs for Florida patients through approved clinical treatment plans or studies.” Studies on “investigational new drugs” are the first step in the Food and Drug Administration approval process.
The Senate plan would decriminalize marijuana comprised of no more than 0.8 percent THC, the component that gets users high, and at least 10 percent of cannabidiol.
The proposal would allow from one to four distribution centers — one in each part of the state — which would be operated by the same entities that grow the marijuana and manufacture the substance, usually delivered to users in the form of oil or paste.
Under the plan, physicians must undergo at least eight hours of FMA training to be allowed to order the marijuana for patients, who would be added to a statewide “compassionate use” registry maintained by the Department of Health.
The Senate measure limits eligible patients to those suffering from seizures, while the House plan would give doctors discretion to order it for patients with other conditions.
Sen. Aaron Bean, another of the bill’s co-sponsors, told his colleagues that he was “scared to death of marijuana” prior to meeting RayAnn’s parents, Holley and Peyton Moseley, who have led the charge on legalizing the substance this session.
“I thought we were just going to politely disagree with them and then send them on their way,” said Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.
Bean said he changed his mind after imaging his own children having problems with seizures or other health issues.
“If it were your kid, what would you do?” Bean said. ” … You’d go to the ends of the world to make sure your kid could get a fighting chance.”
But Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, argued that “miracle drugs” have been developed “by relying on the scientific method and the scientific process” to ensure their safety.
“This particular bill turns that world on top of its head,” said Altman, joined by Republican Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange in voting against the bill.
By legalizing Charlotte’s Web, “rather than relying on scientists … pharmacists and testing, we allow the political process to decide what should be prescribed or not,” Altman said.
The Senate measure now heads to the House, where sponsor Matt Gaetz said he was waiting to see how much support the Senate showed for the plan.
“The strategy is to pass a good bill that helps as many people as we can possibly help. I would like to cover more ailments than just children with intractable epilepsy,” said Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. “I have no doubt the governor will sign any non-euphoric cannabis bill we send him.”