Pot Amendment Puts Cloud Over Anti-Seizure Marijuana Debate

, Daily Business Review

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Manager Paradise Hughes prepares a joint to sell to customers at the Alternative Herbal Health Services Cannabis Club.
Manager Paradise Hughes prepares a joint to sell to customers at the Alternative Herbal Health Services Cannabis Club.

Baxley has thwarted an attempt by House Criminal Justice Chairman Matt Gaetz, who introduced the issue by holding a workshop on it last month, to include legalization of Charlotte's Web in a larger committee bill. Baxley's move means Charlotte's Web would have to be approved in a stand-alone bill, which could be harder to pass. Gaetz said he intends to press ahead and that his colleagues should, too.

"I always think that politicians err when they try to start to treat the public like intellectual inferiors. It's pretty condescending and patronizing to say that we're not going to help 125,000 children with intractable epilepsy because we're worried that the public is going to be confused," Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said.

Another key distinction between the two types of medical marijuana is the potential universe of patients, Gaetz said. State economists estimated in October that about 1.5 million Floridians could be eligible for medical marijuana. Between 125,000 and 250,000 Floridians have disorders that could benefit from Charlotte's Web, Gaetz said.

"The proposed constitutional amendment will put a dispensary in every neighborhood. My proposal wouldn't. No one will be building marijuana dispensaries if CBD is legal," he said.

While GOP leaders including Gov. Rick Scott have expressed empathy for families like the Moseleys, none have definitively said the Legislature should act.

"The governor feels for families struggling with terrible illness. The FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is currently evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the medication and the governor is hopeful that families will get relief from the impacts of these serious illnesses in the safest possible way," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an e-mail on Tuesday.

But Moseley, who with his wife Holley started the non-profit organization "Caring 4 Florida" to lobby for the bill and provide support to other families, said Scott is confused. Clinical trials are being tested on a similar drug called Epidiolex, which also contains CBD but, unlike Charlotte's Web, does not contain THC.

"With a person dying every 10 minutes from epilepsy related issues, the reality is that our kids don't have three to five years to wait on clinical trials," Moseley said.

And, Moseley said, his daughter RayAnn has been prescribed a variety of medications that never received FDA approval for children.

"There's less THC in this than a lot of things on our shelves at Publix," Moseley said. "I think there's such a negative connotation with the word cannabis or marijuana. People just have that embedded in their brains. That's really our job, to explain to people what's going on."

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