As Medical Marijuana Moves to the House, 'Amazing' Senators Give Families Hope
Around the State
In a pathbreaking 36-3 vote Monday, the Florida Senate passed a bill that would allow severely epileptic children to seek relief legally by ingesting nonsmokable, low-THC medical marijuana.
Families watching in the gallery held hands, wept quietly or hugged. Some cheered after the lopsided vote.
It was a scene few might have imagined a couple of months ago.
RayAnn Mosely, perhaps the best known child to visit the Legislature this session, was on hand with her mom Holley, watching the proceedings with joy and relief. RayAnn, 11, suffers from cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy. Afterward, she awarded the three bill sponsors hand-drawn pictures of a bright yellow sun against a blue background, with the words "Ray of Hope."
Meanwhile, the co-sponsors of the companion House bill, Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, watched the Senate floor SB 1030 discussion closely and nervously.
"Never in a million years would I have thought I'd see such overwhelming support in the Florida Senate for a bill that provides research for, and access to, medical cannabis," Edwards said when it was over. "I'm very proud of our senators who voted for this. It's my earnest hope that we can make sure this effort doesn't leave out cancer patients and those with neurological damage."
Following the Senate vote, the bill was certified in the Rules Committee -- after which Matt Gaetz filed a House amendment to CS/CS/SB 1030.
Gaetz summed up his amendment like this: "More ailments will be covered and physicians will be protected with an informed consent provision." (Read the complete 14-page amendment in the attachment below.)
He said, "I have no doubt the governor will sign any non-euphoric cannabis bill we send him."
The House is due to take up the bill and the amendment Tuesday.
One of SB 1030's three sponsors, Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said it didn't matter how much he personally opposes legalizing marijuana, he was 100 percent committed to helping "the desperate parents" of 125,000 children who have tried everything else.
"Any law that defines them as criminals defies common sense," he said.
Bill co-sponsor Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, explained to senators again that the plant, developed in its mild form known as Charlotte's Web, is administered as an oil-based extract and placed under the child’s tongue, and when that happens, seizures "go away."
He said, "If it were your kid, what would you do? ... You'd go to the ends of the world to make sure your kid could get a fighting chance."
“In Colorado we’ve seen the number of seizures per month go from 400 to 300, to three or four or two, or in some cases zero,” Bean said. “Let’s bring that hope to Florida.”
Perhaps the most opposition came from Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, who asked the Senate to kill the bill off then and there. He said such a measure needs to fall under the control of the Food and Drug Administration.
"We need to stick to good science," he said, "... take an approach that is proven."
Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, also voted "no."
Though the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Sheriffs Association support the Senate bill, the governor is hoping the one that reaches his desk will include clinical trials and the auspices of the FDA.
Florida voters will cast ballots in November on a constitutional amendment that would legalize all forms of medical marijuana. It requires 60 percent of the vote to become law.
Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews or at 228-282-2423.