State lawmakers spar over placing limits on the potency of medical marijuana

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Advocates for medical marijuana argued Tuesday against a controversial bill in the Florida House that would limit the potency of THC in smokable marijuana, saying medical professionals should determine whether a patient needs high THC levels for treatment.

But the legislation filed by state Rep. Spencer Roach moved through a committee on health, with many Republican state lawmakers in support of placing a cap on the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical agent causing a euphoric effect.

“What I am asking you here to do today is to put in place dosage limits…I think these caps are very generous, and I think the medical data shows us the dangers of escalating beyond these caps,” said Roach, a Republican representing part of Lee County.

According to the bill analysis, HB 1455 “limits the potency to 10 percent THC for marijuana in a form for smoking and 60 percent THC for all other forms of marijuana products, excluding edibles.”

And the analysis states that “current law does not regulate the THC potency of medical marijuana” and “THC potency levels vary greatly based upon the product.”

A House panel on Tuesday sparred over the proposal, with Democrats arguing that physicians licensed to order medical marijuana should be able to consult with their patients to determine levels of THC to treat certain qualifying conditions.

John Goodson speaks before a Florida House panel against a bill to limit THC in medical marijuana. Credit: screenshot on Florida Channel.

Several doctors and even one medical marijuana patient in Florida spoke against the proposal at the meeting.

During public testimony, John Goodson, who said he is a veteran suffering from health conditions after serving in Iraq, told members of the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee how high levels of THC medical marijuana was a safe and effective alternative to using opioids.

“I was prescribed opioids for ten years and got up to the dose of 240 milligrams a day…now that is cut in half because I have access to high THC,” Goodson said.

“I think you need to leave this to the medical professionals.”

Proponents of the bill say research has shown that high-potency marijuana has negative effects on mental health and may increase risk of mental illness.

Qualifying medical conditions for medicinal marijuana include HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, cancer, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and more, according to the state.

State Rep. Kelly Skidmore asserted that doctors are the best people to “ensure a patients’ safety” and urged lawmakers to vote against the bill.

“My concerns remain that we get in between a doctor and a patient,” said Skidmore, a Democrat representing part of Palm Beach County.

“As someone who has lived her whole life with chronic pain, I don’t take opioid medication…or marijuana, but that availability should be there for me as it should be there for every other patient in the state of Florida who needs it.”

During the committee meeting, Democrats tried to amend the bill, but the amendments were not successful. The legislation was approved Tuesday in the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee

A similar bill was filed in the state Senate but has not moved through legislative committees yet.

Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.