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March 6, 2014

Florida conservatives now talking up nuanced positions on marijuana reform

As reported in this lengthy local article, headlined "Conservative committee opens door to medical marijuana for Florida," a notable swing/southern state now has a number of notable legislators talking in notable ways about marijuana reform.  Here are excerpts:

One conservative Republican who has suffered from brain cancer talked about the deceit of the federal government in hiding the health benefits of marijuana for his cancer. Another legislator reluctantly met with a South Florida family, only to be persuaded to support legalizing the drug.

Then there was Rep. Charles Van Zant, the surly Republican from Palatka who is considered the most conservative in the House. He not only voted with his colleagues Wednesday to pass out the bill to legalize a strain of marijuana for medical purposes, he filed the amendment to raise the amount of psychoactive ingredients allowed by law — to make it more likely the drug will be effective.

The 11-1 vote by the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, was a historic moment for the conservatives in the GOP-dominated House. It was the first time in modern history that the Florida Legislature voted to approve any marijuana-related product. “That’s because people here in Tallahassee have realized that we can’t just have a bumper-sticker approach to marijuana where you’re either for it or against it,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, the committee chairman and sponsor of the bill after the emotional hearing. “Not all marijuana is created equally.”

The committee embraced the proposal, HB 843, by Gaetz and Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, after hearing heart-wrenching testimony from families whose children suffer from chronic epilepsy. A similar bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate, where Senate president Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican and Matt’s father, has said he has heard the testimony from the families and he wants the bill to pass as a first step. “Here I am, a conservative Republican but I have to try to be humble about my dogma,” Senate President Don Gaetz told the Herald/Times....

For a committee known for its dense, often tedious scrutiny of legal text, the debate was remarkable. Rep. Dave Hood, a Republican trial lawyer from Daytona Beach who has been diagnosed with brain cancer, talked about how the federal government knew in 1975 of the health benefits of cannabis in stopping the growth of “brain cancer, of lung cancer, glaucoma and 17 diseases including Lou Gehrig’s disease” but continued to ban the substance. “Frankly, we need to be a state where guys like me, who are cancer victims, aren’t criminals in seeking treatment I’m entitled too,” Hood said.

Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, said he had his mind made up in opposition to the bill, then changed his mind after meeting the Hyman family of Weston. Their daughter, Rebecca, suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome. “We’ve got a plant here on God’s green earth that’s got a stigma to it — but it’s got a medical value,” Eagle said, “I don’t want to look into their eyes and say I’m sorry we can’t help you,” he said. “We need to put the politics aside today and help these families in need.”

The Florida Sheriff’s Association, which adamantly opposes a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for medical use in Florida, surprised many when it chose not to speak up. Its lobbyist simply announced the group was “in support.” The bi-partisan support for the bill was summed up by Rep. Dave Kerner, a Democrat and lawyer from Lake Worth. “We sit here, we put words on a piece of paper and they become law,” he said. “It’s very rare as a legislator that we have an opportunity with our words to save a life.”

The only opposing vote came from Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, an advocate for the Florida Medical Association. Her husband is a doctor. She looked at the families in the audience and, as tears welled in her eyes, she told them: “I can’t imagine how desperate you must be and I want to solve this problem for you.” But, she said the bill had “serious problems.” It allowed for a drug to be dispensed without clinical trials and absent the kind of research that is needed to protect patients from harm. “I really think we need to address this using science,” Harrell said, suggesting legislators should launch a pilot program to study and test the effectiveness of the marijuana strain. “This bill takes a step in the right direction … but it’s not quite there.”

Cross-posted at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform

March 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Permalink


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Rep. Dave Kerner, a Democrat and lawyer from Lake Worth:
“It’s very rare as a legislator that we have an opportunity with our words to save a life.”

-- I missed how it could save a life.
-- THC has been available in Florida by prescription for decades.

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 6, 2014 10:50:39 AM

And marijuana is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government? Why?

Posted by: Steven A. | Mar 6, 2014 10:59:42 AM

Bill Otis, you're a fair man. You know that tere's growing pressure to change the marijana's classification as a Schedule I controlled substance. So designated for a drug with high risk and no medical use. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who hosts an upcoming documentary on the issue, argues that "Neither of those statements has ever been factual."

"I have sat in labs and personally analyzed the molecules in marijuana that have such potential but are also a source of intense controversy. I have seen those molecules turned into medicine that has quelled epilepsy in a child and pain in a grown adult. I've seen it help a woman at the peak of her life to overcome the ravages of multiple sclerosis," Gupta writes. "I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana."

How about joining the movement to take marijuana off Schedule I.

What do you say?

Posted by: Mary | Mar 6, 2014 11:01:26 AM

• "The difference is that the prescription form is a controlled, precise dose [FDA approved since 1985]," Goodell said.
"It doesn't have harmful effects on people's lungs, it doesn't create second-hand smoke and it doesn't have the
recreational (component) that's associated with smoking marijuana."

• “Medical experts said the only [psychotropic] difference between it and marijuana is marinol doesn't provide the euphoric high that pot does.”

-- www.wjhg.com/home/headlines/Should_Medical_Marijuana_Be_Legal_in_Florida_150985145.html
-- www.post-journal.com/page/content.detail/id/634222/Marijuana--Plan-Gets--Mixed--Reactions.html?nav=5018

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 6, 2014 11:09:57 AM

Unfortunately, many of the proponents of keeping marijuana illegal and squelching scientific research into the medical utility of cannabinoids live in an impenetrable bubble.

Good for these conservative members of the Florida legislature. They actually broke free of the bubble to do the right thing --- metaphorically eschewing Creationism in favor of evolution.

If individuals afflicted with epilepsy are charged with the federal crime of possession of marijuana, they will be subject to federal pretrial release/supervision, and they will be ordered by a federal judge not to use marijuana while on federal pretrial release. They will be tested to ensure compliance. If they use, their pretrial release will be violatedi i.e., they will be subject to pretrial detention. Those of us who speak up on their behalf will be called "druggies" by the drug warriors. The drug warriors have to own the fact that their position is that these individuals afflicted with epilepsy should just suck it up and take the seizures --- endure 15-20 seizures a day, despite the fact that marijuana can dramatically reduce the number of seizures. How is there any room for any sentiment other than outrage at the position taken by the drug warriors on this issue?

Posted by: Herb | Mar 6, 2014 11:57:12 AM

I would like the federal thug to bust the kid with THC in his urine. The kid could then bust the health budget of the facility with the management of intractable seizures, including 3 shifts of 1:1 supervision, now provided for free by the parents.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 6, 2014 1:29:22 PM

Does the cat have the tongue of the pro-drug-war crowd on this one? Are they reluctant to acknowledge that the "evil weed" actually provides dramatic medical relief to people afflicted with epilepsy?

Posted by: Karen Fitchett | Mar 6, 2014 8:05:51 PM

How is smoking better than avsilable prescription remedies for epilepsy?

[Grumpy cat gave back my tongue to quote two sources above.]

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 6, 2014 8:33:30 PM

Mary --

"How about joining the movement to take marijuana off Schedule I. What do you say?"

I take the same position on legalization that the AMA does.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 6, 2014 9:17:41 PM

Herb --

"If individuals afflicted with epilepsy are charged with the federal crime of possession of marijuana, they will be subject to federal pretrial release/supervision, and they will be ordered by a federal judge not to use marijuana while on federal pretrial release."

You make sure to let me know "if" they get charged.

You know full well they aren't going to get charged with squat. You also know full well that the "medical" marijuana business is, for the most part, the recreational "get blasted" business in a very, very thin disguise.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 6, 2014 9:40:17 PM

Perhaps the AMA had a little more sense in 1927:

Acting on the expressed principle that no law can establish a scientific fact, the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association voted today to prepare for submission to Congress a bill designed to remove present legal restrictions on the amount of whisky a physician may prescribe for his patients.
A statement issued at the close of the meeting said the vote was unanimous and declared it the feeling of the organization that "legislative bodies composed of laymen should not enact restrictive laws regulating the administration of any therapeutic agent by physicians legally qualified to practice medicine."

California and Western Medicine, 26:808 (1927)

Posted by: Boffin | Mar 6, 2014 10:27:08 PM

Boffin --

You can take the state of medical discipline in 1927, and I'll take the state of it in 2014.

P.S. What was the AMA's 1927 stand on the intelligence of white people vs. the intelligence of blacks? Do tell!!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 6, 2014 11:59:06 PM

Saying that one opposes legalization is not to say that one opposes removal of marijuana from Schedule I.

There is no rational basis for keeping marijuana on Schedule I.

Early in my legal career, I regularly represented individuals charged in federal court with mere possession of marijuana. Those cases were often conducted before federal magistrate judges, and often involved possession/use of marijuana on military bases. But, the feds. frequently prosecute mere possession/use of marijuana, contrary to the intimations from a drug war proponent set forth above.

Posted by: J. Preston | Mar 7, 2014 12:34:24 PM

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