Legislature sets stage for medical marijuana, if approved, in November

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Although many lawmakers dislike the constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana slated for the November ballot, the Florida Legislature is setting up a foundation to implement the plan if passed by voters.

A bill allowing “Charlotte’s Web,” the form of marijuana that dramatically reduces life-threatening seizures in children with epilepsy, but does not get users high, could set the stage for control of more common types medical marijuana up for approval in November.

“It would be naïve to suggest that what we’re doing now would have no effect on what a regulatory scheme would look like if the constitutional amendment were passed. As this process goes forward, you’ll see more discussion of long-term implications of what we’re doing,” Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley told Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida.

The Fleming Island Republican, a former prosecutor, co-sponsored the Senate’s plan to legalize the form of non-euphoric cannabis extract.

GOP leaders in both the House and Senate are backing proposals to allow the extraction of cannabis that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but high in CBD, the derivative cannabidiol, Kam writes.

They have also lined up to oppose the constitutional amendment spearheaded by Orlando attorney John Morgan, even as polls show the measure is widely accepted in almost all voting blocs.

Each chamber differs on how to regulate Charlotte’s Web, such whether to impose guidelines on growers and distributors.

As the legislature debates the issue, Florida investors, nurseries and growers across the state readying to get in on Florida’s medical marijuana movement, while eyeing the November constitutional proposal.

They hope the legislative proposal approved this year would give them an idea of what expect should the law get the 60 percent approval needed for passage.

The Senate’s plan creates a “compassionate use” registry of those individual judged by physicians to be eligible for the “low-THC” treatment, allowing state health officials to approve up to four dispensaries to provide the substance, which will be mandated to have no more than .5 percent of THC and a minimum of 15 percent CBD.

The current House proposal (HB 843) allows cannabis with .8 percent or less of THC and a minimum of 10 percent CBDs. Supporters believe that strain will be better for treatment of a wider range of neurological and medical disorders than the type recommended by the Senate in SB 1030.

The House plan gives an “affirmative defense” to growers, distributors, and users if arrested or charged with crimes, but it lacks the regulatory structure of the Senate version, according to Kam.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.