No news was bad news again Tuesday when the latest update on Florida’s 2014 law delivering medical marijuana delivered only the latest delay.
That’s hardly the relief expected — or promised — for children with severe epilepsy, given that implementation was supposed to have started a year ago.
The stereotypical image of the smoke-filled room may be as unfair for politicians as for the children seeking relief through non-euphoric types of marijuana. But it’s state legislators and Department of Health officials who seem to be in a daze.
“At this time, we are unable to provide a date upon which the licenses will be issued,” offered Nichole Geary, general counsel for the state Department of Health, as to why she couldn’t give a timeline for making the drugs available, during Tuesday’s House Health Quality Subcommittee meeting.
But less than 24 hours later, on Wednesday, Geary sent a letter to committee Chairman Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, saying DOH expects to issue key licenses to five nurseries this fall. The letter did not give a specific target date, however.
Under the controversial 2014 law — nicknamed the “Charlotte’s Web” bill — the DOH was required to put together a regulatory structure for the new industry. It faced lengthy legal challenges to its rule proposals. An administrative law judge in May approved a department rule, clearing the way for the process to select one licensee in each of the five regions.According to the department, it is considering 28 applications for the coveted licenses. But legislators have been frustrated at the slow pace of the work.
Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, are not waiting. On Wednesday, they proposed legislation for the 2016 session (HB 307) that piggybacks on a law passed earlier this year allowing terminally ill patients to gain access to experimental drugs that have not been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the News Service of Florida.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Bradley said legislators can’t “put our head in the sand” on the medical-marijuana issue.
“The people in our communities who care about cannabis reform, who want to be able to die without being jacked up with opiates and without being in excruciating pain are visiting their legislators,” Gaetz said. “They are making phone calls. They’re sending emails, and it’s working.”
Limited-use low-THC Cannabis oil. (Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP)
We agree. There’s not much debate against medical marijuana — the types of cannabis low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabidiol, or CBD, which purportedly does not get users high. About half the states already allow it, and polls show increasing support among voters.
The January legislative session may be a last chance before the 2016 general election, when voters are likely to say “yes” to legalization.
That explains why, given a choice between watching a parade of constitutional amendments next year, or addressing sufferers’ needs, the champions of the 2014 law, Bradley and Gaetz, are filing bills that would let terminally ill patients use non-smokeable marijuana of all strengths.
Would you vote “yes” to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Florida?