Groundbreaking Bill to Decriminalize CBD Medical Marijuana Passes First Hurdle

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 6, 2014 3:55 AM
Medical marijuana

After more than an hour of testimony and debate, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed a groundbreaking bill Wednesday to decriminalize a non-euphoric strain of marijuana supporters say can save lives and ease the suffering of thousands of Florida children with intractable epilepsy.

HB 843 won the day in a 12-1 vote, with Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, the lone dissenter. It represents the first successful drug decriminalization vote in the Florida Legislature in more than 50 years -- and  the first for a marijuana bill.

Committee members generally agreed there are still issues to settle, but they were firm in their desire to help families with nowhere else to turn.

The bill stipulates that strains of marijuana with 0.8 percent or less of the psychoactive component in marijuana, and more than 10 percent of the CBD strain of the plant will be legal -- as will its seeds.

What comes with it is an "affirmative defense" stipulation for those who possess it, meaning CBD users staying within those limits can be arrested, but they cannot be prosecuted. Nor can they be prosecuted if CBD is the only controlled substance involved in the arrest; if it is ingested as oil or paste; or if it is being taken under the supervision of a doctor.

"And we're throwing out $1 million as bait for anyone who will begin research and development on this," said Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, chairman of the subcommittee who, with Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, is sponsoring HB 843. Gaetz said he recognizes universities might not want to touch the research and development component of the bill for fear of losing their federal grants. Edwards pointed out that the state is rich in companies performing biomedical research right now. Both she and Gaetz are convinced one of them will take up the challenge.

On several occasions Gaetz compared the light-strain medical marijuana (CBD) to Flintstone vitamins, calling the bill a “common sense” solution for families who have run out of traditional medical options.

Harrell, whose areas of expertise in the Legislature include health and medicine, put several questions to Gaetz -- from the possibility of wily growers using CBD grow houses as a front for cultivation of euphoric marijuana, to protecting doctors from malpractice, to the bill's "misguided" need to go around the Food and Drug Administration.

At one point she said, "There already is a plan in place. I would suggest you move forward with an amendment to this bill that requires there be a pedigree attached that assures testing -- testing that follows from the grower to the manufacturer to the physician before he dispenses it. Would you agree?"

"I'm open-minded on that," Gaetz replied. "I think that could really improve the bill."

Committee members were visibly moved by the parents' testimony. 

Peyton Moseley of Gulf Breeze, who had testified at a previous meeting -- who with his wife Holley have become poster-parents for legalizing CBD -- briefly told of taking 11-year-old daughter RayAnn to Colorado. The trip, he said,  was  not only for treatment, but to understand how doctors dealing with the crippling daily seizures of Dravet Syndrome interact with growers and distributors, and to see the chain of measures they take to make sure the drug is safe.

Moseley described to the panel the joy and comfort it brought them to meet other parents and sick children in Colorado. "These kids can walk now," he said, choking back emotion. "These kids can talk now. These kids are saying, 'I love you' to their parents for the first time." 

Committee members made strong speeches before the vote.

Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, said he was "adamant" against the bill at the start "until I sat down and saw little (8-year-old) Rebecca Hyman and watched videos of her ... We have a plant here with medical value to help children like Rebecca. ... I encourage you all to support this bill."

Dave Kerner, D-Palm Springs, talked about "the duty we have here today ... an opportunity to save a life. No, it's not a perfect bill, but what are our risks? ... This is real leadership. The Florida Sheriffs Association is here supporting the bill, that's leadership. These parents are here today, that's leadership. ... This is a momentous occasion because we are going to embrace change."

Dave Hood Jr., R-Daytona Beach, had argued earlier that the bill should have gone further, to include those stricken with cancer. But in closing, he was unequivocally supportive. "This bill is really why we run," he said. "We run to help people."

In Harrell's summation, she said, "There's a way to do this appropriately ... I can't vote for this bill at this time." But she prefaced her remarks by saying, "My heart goes out to the parents. I cannot imagine having a child that is suffering so."

Gaetz said later so many committee members had a change of heart along the way, and all because they understand that marijuana -- cannabis -- is just a plant and there's lifesaving good to it as well as the bad that grabs the headlines. "Legislators have realized that a bumper-sticker approach to marijuana, where you're either for it or against it, doesn't serve the people of this state," he said. "With that understanding, we can move forward and do the right thing and really help these families."

Said Edwards, "The testimony, questions and debate underscored three needs: more research and development for cannabis-based therapies; a regulatory framework that ensures patient safety; and swift action and implementation so these patients don't have to wait any longer.

"I believe we're in good shape to keep moving forward and to continue improving the bill," she said.

HB 843 has two more committee stops before it arrives on the House floor. The Senate companion bill, SB 1030, was only introduced Tuesday and is yet to be heard. 

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

Comments (9)

5:07PM MAR 7TH 2014
Patients and others are thrilled the legislature is waking up to the health benefits of cannabis. We regret they seem to only be looking at one strain for one ailment when well over a million other patients in Florida would benefit as miraculously with their ailments. We all hope when it comes to HB 859 - Medical Use Of Cannabis, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, the legislature has the same compassion, understanding and support for those that need a higher THC level like the cancer patients and so many others that suffer health ailments cannabis has shown to be so effective in helping improve their quality of life, or body's ability to function. Please let your representative know you support legalizing all the medicine for all the patients and would like them to pass HB 859 in the Florida House and SB962 in the Florida Senate.
9:51PM MAR 6TH 2014
We are getting swept up in the false hope of a panacea in things related to this gateway to the drug culture. It is not good for people, particularly young people. It will not solve the problems it claims, nor will it stop with this. At a time when on one hand we are saying we are more concerned about health, we are encouraging things that destroy it, and life.
9:09AM MAR 7TH 2014
People who are more concerned about health should support the legalization of marijuana for medical use (and decriminalize it for personal use).

I don't claim it's a panacea but I am confident it'll prove to be a much better choice for many to treat pain and some mild mental health disorders. Of course, it's usefulness as part of cancer treatment and for people who suffer from seizures have already been established. Along with other conditions.

(Don't think for a minute because a drug goes through the FDA process that it's a safer more sane choice. Aside from the fact over 125,000 people die a year from prescription drugs that are legally prescribed, properly prescribed, and taken at the prescribed dose, many of them lead to addictions and can make a person sicker.)
10:16PM MAR 6TH 2014
I am sorry to inform you Scott that you are sadly confused and poorly informed. I suspect that you have takenthe word of the nay sayers without doind any researching, beyond the anti- medical marijuana sources. The true gateway drugs are legal booze, cigs and script pills. Those kids get by getting adults to provide them, by stealing them from their parents and their friends parents. Concerned about health? 0 people die from OD from marijuana, while thousands die from legal tobacco, booze and pills. You say it will not solve the problems it claims. How do you know? Why would you deny people the choice to try. You claim to be concerned things that harm life. Where is the disapproval of all the other items I listed, that do actually harm and kill people. Please take the time to actually educate yourself, on something other than the anti-MM sites. Thank you
1:38PM MAR 6TH 2014
"Harrell, whose areas of expertise in the Legislature include health and medicine, put several questions to Gaetz -- from the possibility of wily growers using CBD grow houses as a front for cultivation of euphoric marijuana, to protecting doctors from malpractice, to the bill's "misguided" need to go around the Food and Drug Administration.'

I can think of a couple reasons why there's a need to go around the FDA. It can take a billion dollars, and many clinical trials. No one wants to go through the time or expense unless they can patent it.

Besides, why should natural remedies have to get FDA approval as long as they aren't as dangerous or have as serious side effects as prescription drugs?

As far as growers using CBd grow houses as a front, you do it the same way you keep the pharmaceutical companies from using doctors, and doctors from using their clinics as a front to market oxycontin.

Further, doctors can protect themselves from malpractice the same way they do when they prescribe prescription drugs off label. As well as by requiring a notarized release or something.
Selina Walston
12:49PM MAR 6TH 2014
My son has epilepsy and has tried every medication there is and has had surgery. He still suffers from seizers every day. I am excited that "Charlotte's Web" has been approved. It has been proven to work on so many other children and I am excited and I can't wait to give my son his first dose!! Great job!!
1:23PM MAR 6TH 2014
The current bill only creates a Medical Defense, not legality. It does not create a growing, production and delivery system, thus you would have to find, grow and produce your own medication, risking arrest at every stage. Please vote yes on Amendment 2. That will give you safe and legal access To the medicine you need. Thanx
dumass people
12:23PM MAR 6TH 2014
yeah great law since there are pretty much NO STRAINS that even near 10% cbd and less then 10%thc... by the time they reach that weed will be legal like in colorado... just more taxpayer money wasted on poimntless laws
9:11AM MAR 6TH 2014
While I am glad that the nay sayers in Tally have agreed to send this bill foward, it is too little, too late. A few children will get the relief they need, while thousands of others will continue to suffer. Further, it only offers a Medical Defense, not legalization, which Florida already has. How to get it here from CO without breaking Federal Law, or to grow and manufacture it here? Let's face the facts, anything less that Amendment 2 is a hoax, anything less than Legal Medical Marijuana for all who need it,IS PURE POLITICAL PARTISANSHIP! We will remember ALL who fail in this!

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