House budget committee passes — with reservations — medical pot bill

03/20/2014 4:30 PM

03/20/2014 4:31 PM

After vigorous questioning about the potential misuse of non-regulated marijuana, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to let a non-euphoric strain of pot be developed and sold legally in Florida.

The committee also sanctioned a $1 million one-time appropriation to pay for university-based research into the long-term effects of the substance on children with intractable epilepsy.

The bill opens the door to allowing growers in Colorado to license their technology to Florida growers and give people in possession of the cannabis immunity from prosecution if they can meet certain conditions.

Among the conditions: show that they have medical condition and a doctor has prescribed the use of the marijuana strain, the strain can be shown to contain no more than .05 percent of the euphoric component known as THC but high in the therapeutic properties known as CBD.

Law enforcement would have the ability to take representative samples from growers six times a year.

Peyton Moseley, whose 11-year-old daughter ReyAnn has intractable epilepsy, told the committee his wife and daughter had planned to travel from their home in Pensacola to attend the hearing Thursday. But, after ReyAnn spent all of Wednesday having seizures, his wife dropped him off in Tallahassee and rushed to Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

“This morning was one of those mornings where we were blessed that she woke up,’’ he said, then thanked lawmakers for keeping an open mind.

The Moseleys are among the families who have traveled to Colorado to see the cultivation and production of the strain of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web,’’ named after a child whose epileptic seizures were reduced dramatically after she was treated with an oil-based form of the drug.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach and Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, has won the support of the Florida Sheriff’s Association. But it continues to face steep opposition from the Florida Medical Association.

Also backing the measure: Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who is the incoming House speaker. He quietly spoke to reluctant legislators to approve the research money and let future committees work out policy concerns.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said they were faced with a dilemma — endanger the lives of more children without it, or find a way to “thread this needle” and create a workable regulatory framework.

“I don’t want to be the next pill mill on steroids, but it’s a cautious walk forward,’’ he said.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he had concerns that the bill may send the message that lawmakers are giving a “stamp of approval” to marijuana. But he he also said he didn’t want to “deny relief to the people who are suffering.”

“What we are approving is a very limited strain of marijuana that will give a quality of life, and living, and health care to a limited number of people,’’ he said. He acknowledged, however, that the proposal doesn’t go far enough by allowing other ailments to be researched that might benefit from this.

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