A bill to legalize a special strain of low-dose medical marijuana passed through the Senate Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Monday, inching medicinal marijuana one step closer to legalization in the state of Florida.
Several parents of epileptic children testified to convince members of the committee that medicinal marijuana would help their children and thousands more living with epilepsy lead more normal lives. Their stories were stories of pain and suffering and the endless search to find relief for the medical problems ailing them for many years.
Ryan Roman, who was diagnosed with spinal cancer in 2005, spoke at length about the benefits medical marijuana has had on his own life. With ongoing use of low-dose medical marijuana, his once-large tumors began to shrink, and Roman felt relief for the first time in years.
Roman says he still feels like a criminal, however, when he goes to get the medicine he needs to feel well because its not legal in Florida. His eyes watering, he explained he just wants to find relief from his medical issues.
Im not a criminal, he tearfully told the committee.
SB 1030, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow legalization for patients listed in a statewide "compassionate use" registry.
Only physicians, however, could decide whose names go into the registry; and the physicians would include only the names of individuals who have been cleared for low-THC treatment. The bill would require doctors to keep careful records of how effective the treatment is because they would be required to submit detailed quarterly reports to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.
The Senate bill differs slightly from its House companion, HB 843, in several ways. The Senate bill would allow patients to ingest the medical marijuana medication by vapor, a form of intake not mentioned in the House bill.
Under SB 1030, the plant extract would be limited to no more than 0.5 percent THC (the euphoric component) and at least 15 percent CBD (the beneficial component), and would be available from up to four dispensaries statewide.
The House bill, on the other hand, would stipulate that strains of marijuana with 0.8 percent or less of the psychoactive component of marijuana and more than 10 percent of the plants CBD strain would be legal -- as will its seeds.
The Senate's support of the bill is hardly surprising -- it was expected to be the friendlier chamber to the legislation.
Many details still have to be worked out for medical marijuana in Florida -- especially on the House side -- but lawmakers who support the bills say they do so because they truly believe the measure will provide a genuine good for the suffering people of Florida.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.