TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Gov. Rick Scott quietly signed a bill Monday legalizing a limited form of medical marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web,” even as much of the state’s GOP leadership continues battling a constitutional amendment allowing more sweeping use of pot.
The measure (SB 1030) allows some patients to use a strain of marijuana that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but high in cannabidiol (CBD) — a mix that supporters say provides the health-care benefits of pot without the high.
The strain is supposed to dramatically reduce life-threatening seizures in children with a rare-form of epilepsy but has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“The approval of Charlotte’s Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life,” said Scott, who had announced during the legislative session that he would sign the bill. “I am proud to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide their children with the best treatment available.”
The governor also signed a measure (SB 1700) shielding patient records related to the use of medical marijuana from public view.
The charge for the legislation was led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a conservative Fort Walton Beach Republican who took up the cause after discussions with Holley and Peyton Moseley. They say Charlotte’s Web can help their adopted daughter, RayAnn, and children in about 150,000 other Florida families. Gaetz is also the son of Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
“Thank you @FLGovScott for signing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act! #helpisontheway,” the younger Gaetz wrote in a Twitter post Monday.
The House limited eligible growers to large commercial nurseries that have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years. The measure also requires five distribution centers — one each in the northwest, northeast, central, southeast and southwest parts of the state.
Under the proposal sent to Scott, growers — who will also manufacture the substance and distribute it to users — must also be registered with the Department of Agriculture for the cultivation of more than 400,000 plants and post a $5 million bond.
Scott signed the bill as some conservatives are gearing up to oppose a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 2, which would allow for more widespread use of medical marijuana without the restrictions on THC content. That measure, backed by Orlando trial attorney and Democratic campaign contributor John Morgan, will go before voters in November.
Andrew Ittleman, an attorney who works on issues facing marijuana businesses in states that have legalized it, underscored the difference between the broader industry and the relatively narrow exception carved out for Charlotte’s Web in Florida.
“We’ve gotten one little variety, one little strain of cannabis passed,” said Ittleman, of the firm Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph.
But he said that some of the issues that face growers in states like Colorado — where pot growers are facing trouble finding banks, for example — could still emerge in Florida under the law Scott signed, because the federal government would still consider Charlotte’s Web to be a Schedule I drug.
This report is by Brandon Larrabee with The News Service of Florida.
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