Will compassion or egos win the day in the legislature?
By Jacob Engels
Unless the Senate revives SB7066, our state’s most needy children will be denied medical cannabis for another year. Why is the bill held up? Most likely because the Senate and House are having a pissing contest with each other over the budget. And in trying to prove who’s got a bigger you know what …who knows how many kids are going to die waiting another year for their medicine?
If the “glitch bill” does not pass this session, there is almost a zero percent chance that sick children will get the medicine they so desperately need. The reason is that the current law (SB1030) is fatally flawed – to the point of utter dysfunction. The legislature has a week left to get its act together, otherwise, the current (screwed up) bill is destined to be tied-up in even more lawsuits … or it will implode based on its own flawed structure.
Here is – at a minimum – what must be fixed or the whole program will be dead-on-arrival.
1) Doctors Could Lose Their Licenses: States with functional medical marijuana programs only require physicians to “recommend” cannabis to qualified patients. This free speech is protected under the First Amendment and reinforced by an important court case. However, SB1030 requires that a physician “order” cannabis in Florida.
This small distinction is tremendously important because stepping outside of mere “recommendation” could put a doctor’s license in jeopardy. As the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) pointed out in its 3/20/15 letter to Senator Bradley, “Conant v. McCaffrey affirmed this right to recommend marijuana for treatment, but said nothing about the legality of a physician ‘ordering’ medical marijuana.” If you were a physician, would you risk your license? This problem can be easily fixed with just a few words in a glitch bill.
2) No Independent Testing: As MPP also pointed out, “Another glitch in the law is the lack of mandatory testing. While the cultivators and dispensaries are allowed to grow, possess, and process marijuana and qualified patients are allowed to possess and use low-THC marijuana, there is no provision to allow independent laboratory testing.” How on earth can sick children or their parents trust medicine that has not been independently tested?
It could be riddled with biological contaminants or heavy metals – not exactly the sort of stuff you want to give to a kid with an already compromised immune system. Again, this can be simply solved with the glitch bill.
3) Illegal Substances: The current law (SB1030) clearly states that only low-THC plants and its “derivatives” are legal under this program. And low-THC is defined as having less than .8% THC. But here is the big problem: the law specifically prohibits smoking the plant itself, so the only medicines that patients can access are derivative products. But in order to create the derivative products, the growers must first extract cannabis oil from the plants.
And here is the catch: during the extraction process, the concentration of THC greatly increases (often by 5-10x). So if you start with a plant that has only .3% THC and then put it through the extraction process, the resulting oil could have 1.5% – 3% THC. And at that moment of extraction, the derivative oil is illegal and is subject to confiscation … and the workers and nursery owners could be arrested. If the police do not confiscate the product and arrest the workers, then they are not following the law.
Saintpetersblog, a St. Pete based and nationally recognized publication quoted Ryan Wiggins…who acts as a spokesperson for Holly Moseley, an advocate of the Charlotte’s Web strain of medical marijuana saying the following.
“The Florida legislature has the power to fix this. With a simple vote, they can smooth out this process, fixing the issues in the current legisaltion, thus expediting the abilitiy for these children to receive their medication.”
Will compassion or egos win the day in the legislature? Will sick kids be the victims of budget gridlock and political axe-grinding? There is still time to remedy the situation … but only if our elected officials get their heads out of the sand and actually do something to help the citizens of Florida.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org