With the governor's signature Monday on the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, Florida became the 22nd state in the nation -- not counting the District of Columbia, which is also on board -- to pass legislation supporting the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Senate Bill 1030 and 1700 were both signed, approving the medication and protecting patient information in the compassionate use registry.
SB 1030 -- nicknamed "the Charlotte's Web bill" -- had overwhelming support of Florida citizens, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature. It passed overwhelmingly in both chambers -- 111-7 in the House and 30-9 in the Senate.
Scott said, As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer. The approval of Charlottes Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life. I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available.
Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, the bill's co-sponsor in the House, quickly issued a statement expressing hope the bill can be a bright and exciting beginning for Florida.
"I am thankful that the governor has signed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 into law," Edwards said. "Florida has the opportunity to lead in the research and development of scientific breakthroughs from cannabis-derived therapies."
She said, "By partnering with our universities, physicians, scientists, and patients, I believe that we are establishing a framework to bring expedited research to the masses so that more patients, not only here in Florida but across the globe, will have access to new therapies that are safe and effective."
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act allows certain patients with seizure disorders, severe and persistent muscle spasms, or cancer to access low-THC cannabis with a recommendation from a licensed physician. The Act also allocates $1 million for research of cannabidiol and its effect on intractable childhood epilepsy.
David Cohn, editor-in-chief of FloridaMarijuanaInfo.org, was more cautious. "This is definitely a major step in furthering medical marijuana use in our state," he said. "?But it'?s important our citizens clearly understand what this bill means to people suffering from debilitating diseases, and the pros and the cons associated with it."?
Among the pros, Cohn says the bill has set a precedent for other Southern states, has been bipartisan, and opens the doors for doctors to recommend an effective treatment program for their patients. It also allows state universities with agricultural and medical programs to conduct research to develop new forms of treatment -- a great opportunity for medical advancement to take place in Florida, he says.
But his list of "cons" is longer. He claims the bill creates a monopoly in the hands of five businesses, severely limiting competition and free enterprise. More research and public inquisition needs to be done to determine exactly who these five companies are, what criteria are being used to select them, how they will be regulated, and to whom they report.
He also claims that, while the last-minute expansion of the bill allowed for additional ailments to be covered, there are still hundreds of thousands of Floridians who will not be covered under the legislation, such as those with HIV/Aids, Alzheimer'?s, dementia, mental disabilities (post-traumatic stress disorder), and others.
"We are following this story intensely,"? said Cohn, "and we have outlined some items we believe the public should be aware of. As we get closer to the Nov. 2 ballot initiative, we will be commenting on how the legalization of marijuana for medical use will impact the state of Florida; including Florida?'s economy, health-care system, the travel industry, and so forth."
Hesaid the FloridaMarijuanaInfo.org mission is to provide the most accurate and useful information about marijuana, with a specific focus on Florida. The group strongly encourages the public to interact with their online community through the forum, comments sections, and blog.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.