Cannabis Bill Passes Despite Warning

Apr 22, 2014

After two hours of debate and often-emotional testimony, the House Judiciary Committee endorsed a plan Monday to allow doctors to prescribe a marijuana extract to desperate patients for whom it provides relief from seizures or pain.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar
Credit Florida House

HB 843 by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, passed 15 to 3 despite some stiff opposition. Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong warned that it is unwise for the legislature to bring untested drugs to market  rather than going through the formal process through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"We must be wary of unintended consequences and remember that first we must do no harm," said Armstrong, who also heads the Florida Department of Health. 

The bill sets up four regional organizations around the state that could grow, test and dispense the medical substance. It would have very little THC, the chemical in marijuana that causes a "high," but would be rich in CBD, which appears to relieve seizures.

The bill would also set up a "Compassionate Use Registry" within DOH containing the names of patients who are eligible for the cannabis product. The patients could be placed on the list by their treating physicians only after the doctors have completed a special course and after certifying there is no other treatment that works. A doctor who fraudulently prescribed the product could be charged with a misdemeanor.

While the Senate version of the cannabis extract bill limits its use to intractable epileptic seizures, the House bill includes Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer.

For more details, see an account by the Times/Herald Tallahassee  bureau.