Columns

CBD: Gov. Scott Is Wrong

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 22, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

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.

I've listened in on HB 843 every stop along the way and I'm at the point where all I see are the faces, all I hear are the voices of suffering families whose seizure-wracked children have run out of options.

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.


Comments (7)

Elizabeth Cantarero
11:54PM APR 23RD 2014
How about having feelings and being empathetic for your fellow human beings,who have children going through epileptic seizures? Obviously, these are empty human beings who do not count their blessings for having healthy children and do not open their minds nor hearts to the cries of others. What a shame!!!
Krymsun
6:12PM APR 23RD 2014
'.. naysayers one after the other who see CBD medical marijuana as a "gateway" to cocaine and heroin.'

For those who still say, "I believe marijuana is a gateway drug to substance abuse.", I would reply:

Really? Would that be because there appears to be high correlation between the use of marijuana, and later 'hard' drug use? If so then by that logic, wouldn't you be forced to agree that a substance with a much higher correlation than cannabis, a substance that more people use more of, for longer, well before problem drug use must indicate it is even more likely to be the actual 'gateway' ?

One which logically must have a 100% correlation, as every single last one of those who later exhibit drug-abuse issues first inhaled a steady diet of this substance. A substance whose overdose can result in central nervous system toxicity manifesting as symptoms such as
• visual changes (especially tunnel vision),
• ringing in the ears (tinnitus),
• nausea,
• twitching (especially of the face),
• irritability (personality changes, anxiety, confusion, etc.), and
• dizziness.

This may be followed by a tonic–clonic seizure consisting of two phases:
• intense muscle contraction occurs for several seconds (tonic);
• followed by rapid spasms of alternate muscle relaxation and contraction producing convulsive jerking (clonic).
The seizure ends with a period of unconsciousness (the postictal state).

Sudden withdrawal from this substance invariably results in death for 100% of users, a much higher rate than for chronic alcoholics suffering the 'DTs', as an example.

The substance I refer to is Oxygen. Try hyperventilating, or holding your breath for too long. See what happens.

Obviously, if breathing oxygen leads to every vice, it must be outlawed.

Stick THAT in your pipe, and smoke it!

IMHU, such 'naysayers' seem to follow the dictum,
"When in danger,
or in doubt,
Run in circles!
Scream and shout!"
William
1:14PM APR 22ND 2014
OK, you convinced me. I support the legislation. I think Governor Scott will sign it, if it reaches his desk, but I do understand, on one level, why they're raising concerns about the lack of FDA approval.
Loki Luck III
12:09PM APR 22ND 2014
This looks like Governor Scott find HB 843 beneficial to his cohorts.... allegedly. The bill isn't perfect, but rather an honorable oracle.
Paula Dockery
10:26AM APR 22ND 2014
Good job Nancy!
LDouglas
8:34AM APR 22ND 2014
Thank you Ms. Smith!

How disappointing to see our Governor support putting a natural medicine with proven benefits into the hands of a pharmaceutical corporation at the expense of so many children.

Because he seems to be coming around on our water quality, until now, I've been able to give him the benefit of a doubt on a lot of his other policies. But, I won't be able to get over this if he doesn't change course. To me, it's unforgivable to take away our right to natural and alternative medicine and make us rely only on medicines that a corporation finds profitable enough to market.

But I have an idea. One of the best things I liked about the ACA was it would allow funding for comparative effectiveness studies- and those studies would include alternative medicines and treatments.

Here's a perfect chance for Florida to be the leader in one comparative effectiveness study and for Governor Scott to compromise. Approve Charlotte's Web say for a 10 year period. Track the patients who use it while we wait for the pharmaceutical company to get their clinical trials done and approval. Consumer Reports says it takes 7 years after approval for the worst side effects to show up. (Because we can't put full faith in the accuracy of clinical trials.)
So within 7 years we'll know if there are any adverse effects of Charlottes Web. Then, 7 years after approval of the pharmaceutical we'd be able to actually see how they compare.

Win-win. Kids in Florida don't have to wait for treatment and the pharmaceutical corporation gets their shot at it. And we'll find which is better. With any luck, they'll both be good and we'll have a choice.

BTW, synergy is the reason for this: "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."

Synergy copied from Wikipedia: "Synergy is the interaction of multiple elements in a system to produce an effect different from or greater than the sum of their individual effects. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia συνέργεια from synergos, συνεργός, meaning "working together"."

Same reason why eating broccoli is better for you than taking its beneficial compound in a pill.
Dean
7:22AM APR 22ND 2014
Great Story. The bill does not go far enough. I hope it gets passed but true Medical Marijuana will be up to the people of Florida. It is evident that the partisan politicians in Tally are busy playing games, not listening to the people they were elected to represent. Please go out and vote Yes on Amendment 2 and legalize Medicl Marijuana in November. Thank You

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