(Adds background, quote from sponsor of bill, changes byline
By Bill Cotterell
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 16 Florida Governor Rick
Scott signed a law on Monday allowing for the limited use of a
special strain of marijuana to treat epileptic seizures and
State lawmakers passed the measure this spring with
bipartisan support after impassioned appeals from parents
seeking access to the form of marijuana known as "Charlotte's
Web," named for a Colorado girl whose epileptic seizures have
shown some response to the drug.
"As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids
suffer," Scott, a Republican, said in a statement. "I am proud
to stand today with families who deserve the ability to provide
their children with the best treatment available."
The "Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act" will severely limit
marijuana sales, keeping them well below those in Colorado and
Washington state, where recreational marijuana has been
The Florida law allows use of the drug for people suffering
from epilepsy, cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),
known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
The Charlotte's Web substance is not for smoking and is
specially cultivated to be very low in tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), the element that gets users high.
"I'm thankful. When we began the legislative session, I did
not feel the governor would support any marijuana legislation,"
said state Representative Katie Edwards, a South Florida
Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation.
Edwards joined forces with Republican state Representative
Matt Gaetz to back the bill despite being on opposite sides of
the medical marijuana debate. Edwards supports broader use of
medical marijuana, while Gaetz is opposed.
Gaetz said "Charlotte's Web," an oil extract placed under
the tongue, is not a step toward marijuana legalization.
After Jan. 1, 2015, doctors will be allowed to prescribe
low-THC marijuana treatment for state residents with epilepsy,
cancer and afflictions causing "seizures or severe and
persistent muscle spasms."
The bill also appropriates $1 million for medical research
in medical uses of marijuana.
Florida is estimated to have 125,000 epilepsy sufferers.
The new law limits production to a few growers at nurseries
that have been in business for 30 years or more.
The law is not related to a more expansive medical marijuana
referendum up for vote in November, with polls showing
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have some form of
laws that permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes,
though they vary widely, according to a Florida legislative
(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa.; Editing by
Colleen Jenkins, Eric Beech and Jim Loney)