CBD: Gov. Scott Is Wrong
Around the State
Of course it's important for Florida to do medical marijuana right. But there comes a time when you just want the talk and the technical mumbo-jumbo and the trepidation to end.
I think I'm there.
Yet, this groundbreaking House bill -- conceived of compassion and crafted so carefully -- runs into naysayers one after the other who see CBD medical marijuana as a "gateway" to cocaine and heroin.
For heaven's sake, we're talking about cannibidiol, a non-euphoric, non-smokable form of cannabis, a product developed as a special strain. Won't get you high. Period.
As Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Sebring, a medical doctor, told the Judiciary Committee Monday, "I've worked in the emergency room and in 40 years I have never, ever taken care of a marijuana overdose (patient)."
Somebody please tell me how approving this bill would change Florida life as we know it.
Scratch that. It would change lives -- the lives of the families and the special needs children now coping with 15, 30, 100 seizures a day.
Now along comes Gov. Rick Scott, who with John Armstrong, his surgeon general, tells us we should fear what might happen if the Legislature passes a bill that circumvents the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's iron grip on the medical establishment. Read Dara Kam's story, "Scott Administration Wants More Restrictions on Marijuana Proposal," on this page.
How the hearts of these families with sick children must sink reading Kam's story.
With all due respect, the governor is wrong.
I know Gov. Scott sees only one path to drug safety for Florida's 125,000 severely epileptic Florida children -- the one that takes them through FDA tests and pharmaceutical company trials. But if they do that, they're left to pray the government and these companies come up with something quickly, pray whatever it is, it's accessible, affordable and effective.
"Effective" is a key word here. Armstrong cites a drug called Epidiolex, a synthetic form of marijuana high in CBD. The University of California, San Francisco, started clinical trails on the GW Pharmaceuticals drug earlier this year. But, the problem is, Epidiolex doesn't contain even a trace of THC, the euphoric component in marijuana. The 86 percent of children doing well on the Charlotte's Web strain in Colorado are getting on average 0.3 percent of THC, a trace, just enough to add significantly to its effectiveness. (HB 843, by the way, stipulates that strains of marijuana with 0.8 percent or less of THC (the euphoric component) and more than 10 percent of the plant’s CBD strain (the beneficial component) would be legal -- as would its seeds.)
Participation in clinical trials is free. Which all sounds good and well. But, of 125,000 children, how many will be admitted? Likely, a very small fraction of that number. What happens to the others? And what happens to the participants once the trials end? How much will they pay?
Epidiolex -- no generic anywhere in sight -- is expected to be priced upwards of $800 a month once it's on the market. In addressing the Judiciary Committee Monday, HB 843 sponsor Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said a month's supply of Charlotte's Web in Colorado is "about two hundred bucks."
Gaetz told News Service of Florida's Kam, "The governor's suggestions are good. We've taken those suggestions but we're thinking a little bolder. I would like to do that and have little kids who can't get into a clinical trial still have their lives saved."
The U.S. government, which today claims officially that there is no medical benefit in marijuana, had its own pilot medical marijuana program and was successful for the few patients allowed in. But it was shut down anyway.
Not only that, clinical studies decades ago found marijuana -- not a synthetic, just the plant -- to be useful for certain chronic pain conditions while also being entirely safe.
Meanwhile, thousands die every year from widely used opiate painkillers. Even aspirin kills hundreds of Americans each year.
And marijuana? Says Gregory L. Gerdeman, assistant professor of biology at Eckerd College, "By any credible interpretation, the number is somewhere between zero and a whole lot less than aspirin."
In the end, I come back to the place where I wish the governor would go. To the patients. To the children who move a little closer to death with every seizure.
Every committee meeting I'm introduced to a new family. On Monday it was Dennis and Rosalyn Deckerhoff of Tallahassee who had come to testify about their son, who has exhausted all treatment, even brain surgery. Both spoke through tears.
"I know there's a lot of compassion in all of you, a lot of compassion in every one of us," said Dennis Deckerhoff. "If you were in this situation yourself with an 18-year-old child and had been through this since he was 6 months old and tried everything, including sawing your child's brain in half, you would do anything."
Fortunately, bill sponsors are forging ahead, unbowed. Said co-sponsor Katie Edwards Monday afternoon, "We have taken the bill further than I ever contemplated we would this session. We shouldn't stop now."
The bill as it's written may not be perfect. But Gov. Scott truly is wrong. It doesn't need the intervention and embedded delays of FDA and Big Pharma to legitimize a safe plant oil that could halt the developmental disabilities in thousands upon thousands of Florida children.
Can you really tell fearful parents with children out of options, devoid of a quality of life, so near that fatal seizure, that they have to wait until the government declares cannibidiol safe?
I hope the governor will reconsider his reticence and sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews or at 228-282-2423.