Florida House backs THC cap for younger medical cannabis patients

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The Florida House on Thursday approved a potency cap on medical cannabis for patients under the age of 21.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, a Lee County Republican, successfully advanced an amendment to a bill (HB 713) involving the state Department of Health that would limit the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the chemical agent that causes the high — to no more than 10 percent in medical marijuana products for patients under the age of 21.

Physicians could exceed the cap if they certify the patient is terminally ill.

Rodrigues said limiting the potency of THC for younger patients is necessary, citing research that has shown cannabis can damage the developing brains of children.

But Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, opposed the cap, saying lawmakers should focus on other medical cannabis problems, such as making the products cheaper for patients and protecting patients who could be fired for legally using the drug.

“What we are doing is we’re imposing a cap on THC that doctors, patients, and families are not asking for,” Smith said. “I believe that this amendment is a prohibitionist amendment that is written by individuals who do not support the legal medical cannabis program that we have in our state, that has been imposed on the Legislature by the will of the voters.”

Smith offered a counter-amendment that would have removed the THC cap. But it was defeated in a 42-68 vote.

The House bill is now awaiting a final floor vote.

The fate of the THC cap is uncertain in the Senate. A similar proposal was rejected by a Senate committee earlier in the session.