Medical marijuana and Charlottes Web are inextricably linked due both to politics and policy.
The politics of both is obvious: Its an election year. More important, medical marijuana is being used by Democratic Party activists to promote the turnout in the less-than-spectacular midterm election this November, when Florida elects our next governor.
Charlottes Web is being used by its creators to promote its product, designed to help reduce the number of seizures an individual endures on a daily basis. From a workshop conducted earlier this legislative session, parents spoke passionately of the benefits of this particular drug.
Together, these two issues may have untold consequences for the other.
Many legislators, sheriffs, law enforcement officers, parents and citizens have great concern about the medical marijuana issue because there is little scientific evidence of its medical value other than to help nausea which is quite common in the medical procedures used today to combat a host of diseases.
Yet, this medical issue can also be resolved by the medical prescription for marijuana that doctors can now prescribe. But proponents claim the pill version of weed (Marinol) is not as effective as smoking or ingesting it in brownies or some other food.
The claim of ineffectiveness of the pill versus smoking/ingesting weed is something that should be studied, documented and tested before we allow it to be legalized.
Proponents will argue that theyre not legalizing marijuana, but they really are, supposedly for the sick only. Come on, how many of us really believe that only the truly sick will get it?
Look, oxycodone, hydrocodone and other pain pills were only for folks with severe pain, but over the years it quickly became available to anyone who took the time to see a billboard pain clinic or a wacko doctor to get the pills. Pill mills sprouted all over South Florida and they were as ubiquitous as tattoo parlors.
Despite thousands of deaths annually, it took Florida many years to get rid of the scourge of these pain clinics and send them packing to Georgia and other states. Yet, here we are again setting ourselves up to replace all of the pill mills with pot shops, just like California. If you dont think that just about anyone will be able to find a doc to write a script for medicinal marijuana, I have a bridge Id like to sell you.
To make matters worse, because children will inevitably have medical issues that could warrant parents or caregivers providing medical weed to them, the constitutional amendment fails to address this key issue. In fact, kids will even be able to get med ganja without parental consent!
OK, so you're 72 and you had your latest hit of chemo and you want to smoke some dope to feel good again, I get it.
But, for a child to become a weed smoker because a substance-abusing parent or caregiver wants him to have it is unconscionable, regardless of the true motivation. Worst yet would be for a criminal to be a parent or caregiver and provide the dope to the child. You get the idea.
Charlottes Web is only slightly removed from any of the arguments above. No one in his right mind wants to deny anyone else medical procedures that will save his life or make his life bearable.
Fortunately, we have a process in this country for that and its called the Federal Drug Administration. The FDA is the one to regulate prescription drugs and it has a lengthy process that, more times than not, will successfully tell us if a drug has an important medical value.
And the FDA doesn't start with tests on humans; it starts with tests on rats.
So how can Florida legislators thread this needle in a rational, but compassionate way?
First, make sure that the parents and children have the opportunity to take their children to a Florida hospital that is involved in the latest federal testing of CBD, the nonintoxicating element of marijuana.
Though there are about 10 hospitals nationwide testing CBD, no hospital in Florida is a part of this federal IND, so the dollars appropriated for Charlottes Web should be used to entice several Florida hospitals, geographically spread around the state, to join this research project which allows doctors of parents whose children have intractable epilepsy to obtain a pure, properly-tested and standardized CBD product.
The foremost medical marijuana expert in the country, Dr. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, testified four months ago before the New York Legislature.
Dr. Gitlow testified that the scientific fact is that while there are medical components contained in marijuana, crude herbal marijuana smoked, vaporized, eaten, etc. is not medicine.
His bottom line was even more succinct: Listen to scientists, not advocates.
Florida can be a part of the solution, but legalization and anecdotal evidence is not the answer. The only safe and sensible solution is to provide Charlottes Web in an environment where the advantages and disadvantages can be scientifically tested while still allowing parents and caregivers the choice to have access to this drug.
As for medical marijuana, Just say No!
Barney Bishop III, has been a lobbyist since 1979 and is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC. He is the former president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida and currently serves as the CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance (www.smartjusticealliance.org). His company is a partner in the Dont Let Florida Go to Pot Coalition, which wants to educate the public on the negative consequences of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. He can be emailed at email@example.com.