Senate Medical Marijuana Bill Adds Muscle to HB 843

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 12, 2014 3:55 AM
Rob Bradley and Aaron Bean

Sens. Rob Bradley and Aaron Bean

The Senate Health Policy Committee unanimously approved a medical marijuana bill Tuesday that takes a bolder path to legalization than its House companion.

As they did for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee meetings, parents of severely epileptic children told stories of exhausting all traditional treatment and having nowhere to turn. Members of the Senate panel were visibly moved.

"No one can sit here and listen to this with a dry eye," said Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, bill co-sponsor and chairman of the Health Policy Committee.

Instead of merely providing a defense for Dravet Syndrome families arrested for possession of CBD medical marijuana, as HB 843 does, Senate Bill 1030 talks about legalization for patients listed in a statewide "compassionate use" registry.

Only physicians 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.

Doctors would have to keep careful records of how effective the treatment is because the bill requires them to submit detailed quarterly reports to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. SB 1030 provides $1 million for the college to conduct research on the reports.

The Senate bill would also allow patients to ingest the medicine by vapor, a form of intake not mentioned in the House bill.

Finally, the plant extract, limited to no more than 0.5 percent THC (the euphoric component) and at least 15 percent CBD (the beneficial component), would be available from up to four dispensaries statewide.

The House bill, HB 843, stipulates that strains of marijuana with 0.8 percent or less of the psychoactive component in marijuana, and more than 10 percent of the plant's CBD strain will be legal -- as will its seeds.

Still, bill co-sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, a former prosecutor and chairman of Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations, said he feels strongly that "any law that would define (families dealing with such suffering) as criminals defies common sense and is a law that should be changed."

The Senate always was expected to be the friendlier chamber to a medical marijuana bill.

For House sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar and his prime co-sponsor Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, it has been a long, hard slog to change hearts and minds. As Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, said, "I was adamant against 843 when we started ... until I saw and talked with some of these parents. My gosh, I don't know how anyone could cope with as much as they have."

Many details still have to be worked out, especially on the House side, but all lawmakers spearheading the medical marijuana bills say they are driven by the high purpose and genuine good that can come from this legislation.

Meanwhile, a CNN special, "Weed 2: Cannabis Madness: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports," aired Tuesday night. It featured the stories of many families with severely epileptic children, some from Florida.

Gupta told the story of the Bundukamaras, Franncis, a teacher in Miami-Dade public schools, and Cristi, a nurse practitioner and professor at Miami Dade College. They decided to move their family to Colorado, where they could get the Charlotte's Web marijuana strain their 14-year-old son Reggie needed.

"You basically have two choices -- you try to do it illegally, or you uproot your family, so that's what we did," Cristi tells Gupta. "This was our only hope. We almost lost Reggie a couple of times in the last two years. ..."  Reggie was experiencing 25 to 100 grand mal seizures a month when the family arrived in Colorado. On a bad day, he would have hundreds of smaller seizures.

Now on a course of Charlotte's Web, Reggie's medications have been drastically reduced. Last month, he was down to 13 grand mal seizures, and he's eating and communicating again.

Cristi says on camera she's no longer sure she would go home even if Florida passed medical marijuana laws.

"It was so hard to uproot and leave, and we're just getting settled," she says. "But it still feels like home. Florida still feels like home."

CNN is likely to repeat the special.

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

Comments (7)

3:16PM MAR 16TH 2014
Charlotte's Web is for children with seizures. How backwards and thoughtless are politicians. Pass the damn bill
3:37PM MAR 13TH 2014
none of these bills are designed to help the patients. they are designed to appease the public and help the least number of people.
1:33AM MAR 13TH 2014
Dr William L. Courtney, who has been studying the benefits of raw cannabis and that he states, "It (cannabis) has captures these molecules that help our bodies regulatory system be more effective. The bottom line is it's a dietary essential that helps all 210 cell types function more effectively”. He further states, “ I don't even refer to it as medicine anymore, strictly as a dietary essential". Cannabis is widely accepted and referred to as a nutraceutical, which is “Food, or parts of food, that provide medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease”. We all have an endocannabinoid system that regulates the homeostasis of the other systems in our bodies by means of cannabinoids. We run on cannabinoids.

In raw fresh form cannabis is loaded with health benefits and will not get one high. It’s been said it has 60 times the healing properties compared to smoking because nothing gets burned, but instead consumed. It is the process of drying cannabis that turns THCA into THC. THCA is not psychoactive. One can consume raw fresh cannabis all day and never get high from it. A daily glass of cannabis juice has phenomenal healing properties and has saved lives, killed cancer, healed other diseases and brought those at deaths door back to a healthy life.

As a Florida patient who has proven to the court that I need it or I will die as they watched me deteriorate to the point of near toxic death, over a two and a half year court ordeal, and witnessed the amazing recovery once allowed to use the medicine again, I have a complete understanding of the critical value of the nutraceutical, the medicine, and the nature of plant/human relationship. My body slowly over time shuts down starting with my digestive system. I set out to understand why the medicine worked so well for me so I could explain it to the court. What I learned was amazing, emotionally overwhelming, and life altering. Once you understand that our bodies use cannabinoids for everything and it is a necessary nutrient for the human body to function and that in it natural raw state it is nothing but health in an herb, how can one come to any other conclusion other than it should be legal to grow in every back yard on the planet, sold in the produce department of every grocery store, served commonly in salads and as a sandwich topping, and a glass of fresh raw cannabis juice a should be as common as a glass of orange juice or apple juice. As a population control measure one may want to continue the illegality of the plant, but then that is genocide, an unacceptable practice by any government isn’t it? Do we outlaw grapes because they can be made into wine? Pharmaceutical companies continue to manufacture new addictive deadly drugs at an alarming rate, yet no one seems concerned over that. Why should cannabis medicine be treated different from any other medicine? It is simply an herbal medicine that drug companies considered a waste of time knowing they can not patent it in it best form. I think that was a huge mistake on their part, they could be manufacturing and selling RSO capsules now and bring an end to cancer as we know it, had they taken it seriously. Now we have a new industry that will continue to make strides in healing the masses. We have American Medicine and it works for many, yet there are other widely accepted forms of medicine. Medical cannabis is considered holistic medicine in many areas of the country. It has always been a part of Ayurvedic, Chinese and Korean medicines. Cannabis was widely used as medicine in this nation until 1937. Now science understands the connection between the plant and humans, it is time the nation accepts cannabis medicine as a science. In addition to American Medicine we currently have Chiropractic, Holistic, Herbal and Ayurvedic medicine being practiced here. There is room for cannabis medicine, the practice of medicine based on the endocannabinoid system and using cannabis to treat it.

Humans will always use an intoxicant. Cannabis is safer than alcohol for mind, body, and society. If we are a free nation we should have a legal choice of relaxants. Cannabis being the “Safest substance known to mankind”, according to the DEA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young, and never being the cause of a single death, should be legal to grow in every backyard on the planet. Is medical use a baby step to legalization, NO, it is a baby step to understanding the human/plant relationship we have with cannabis.

Since cannabis is the only thing that keeps my body functioning, (even my doctor and lawyer will atest to that) and I have seen and read of the thousands it helps in everything from seizures to cancer when all of modern medicines fail, I believe the government MUST legalize it, not doing so is a genocide, or forced chemical medical slavery. I have seen the damages of pharmaceuticals. The leading cause of addiction today is pharmaceuticals which are damaging to the body. Cannabis is a proven nutraceutical and consumed raw and fresh makes all 210 cell types work better. I believe every person on the planet should have safe legal access to such an amazing health benefit. The health of your children or grandchildren may depend on it.
9:33AM MAR 12TH 2014
There is children's aspirin and then there is adult aspirin. The same goes for Marijuana. The last thing we need is opinions from political insiders. These are the very ones that put Marijuana on the false schedule one list in the 1st place when we know darn well this should never have happened. Look at Obamacare, what a mess of a can of worms and lies.
Alan Hutto
9:17AM MAR 12TH 2014
Is it the act of smoking that provides the relief or an active ingredient in marijuana, such as THC, that provides the needed medical relief? If it is the former then why don't cigarettes serve the same purpose? If it is the latter then why not let the pharmacuetical companies provide the resources and not attract people to smoking of any kind...especially our kids?
10:00AM MAR 12TH 2014
Marijuana is not a single compound, it is a mixture of many different compounds, in varying amounts. Smoking it makes it even more complex. Big Pharma has tried and failed to duplicate it. It is just too complex. Different strains are useful in different ways for different medical complaints. While more research is needed, to continue to deny its use to patients, to continue to lock up and take away patients rights, including their right to vote and protect themselves IS JUST WRONG! The idea thatsomehow tobacco is a usable substitute is really apples to oranges. Tobacco kills, marijuana does not! I hope you will do some research, using sites other than the nay sayers. Dr Sanjay Gupta has released some excellent information. United for Care is the Lead in Florida for Amendment 2. Thanx
8:27AM MAR 12TH 2014
While a tiny step in the right direction, it is still not nearly enough. For the sake of the children and their parents I hope a bill passes. Lets face the truth though, the only reason lawmakers even chose to listen is Amendment 2. The whole truth is that any bill that does less than Amendment 2 is political games. A hurry up and do something partisan political game. I hope everybody will VOTE YES ON 2. Thanx

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