| TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 5
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 5 Acknowledging a major
shift in societal attitudes toward marijuana, a key committee of
the Florida legislature voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to
approve medical use of a "non-euphoric" marijuana extract that
has shown promising results in treating seizures.
"We have evidence of benefits," Republican state
Representative Cary Pigman, an emergency room physician, said of
the substance known as cannabidiol, or CBD. "We have no evidence
The Florida House Criminal Justice Committee voted 11-1 in
favor of approving a proposal to allow medical use of CBD.
Before the vote, Pigman referred to parents in the audience who
had told of their children having epileptic seizures that
steadily destroyed brain cells.
"Each of these children is moving closer to their deaths, at
a lightning-fast rate, compared to the rest of us," he said.
The bill is not related to a constitutional amendment put on
next November's Florida ballot by a public petition campaign
that would allow doctors to prescribe regular marijuana for
patients with severe disabilities.
The pending proposal (HB 843) allows tightly controlled use
of a specially cultivated strain high in CBD and low in
tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound that
gets smokers high.
The Georgia House recently voted 171-4 for a similar bill
and another CBD proposal is pending in Alabama. The Florida bill
has heavyweight sponsorship by criminal justice committee
chairman Matt Gaetz, a conservative opponent of the medical
marijuana ballot, and Representative Katie Edwards, a Democrat
from a liberal Fort Lauderdale district who supports medical
prescription of the herb.
"We've been fooled into thinking this is something unsafe
for so many years and that's stifled good research," Edwards
said after the committee meeting.
Gaetz emphasized that under his and Edwards' bill, there
would be significant safeguards against mixing medical and
recreational pot. The drug could not be in smoking form, a user
must not be in possession of any illegal drug, use of the drug
would have to be approved by a physician, and the drug itself
would have to be sufficiently low in THC and high in CBD.
Gaetz also said the bill provides a start-up $1 million in
"research bait" for pharmaceutical companies to come to Florida
and refine the substance.
"You have a plant I understand has a negative stigma to it
because of the side effects of recreational use, but the fact is
it has medical value," said Representative Dane Eagle, a
Republican who said he had opposed marijuana legalization until
The bill next goes to the House Appropriations Committee and
the full Judiciary Committee. A companion Senate bill (SB 1030)
has not yet been heard in that chamber.
Holley Moseley, cofounder of Caring 4 Florida and mother of
an 11-year-old girl with epilepsy, thanked the committee for
advancing the legislation, which she said would "mean a better
life for our daughter and our family."
(Editing by David Adams and Peter Galloway)