The proposed Charlotte’s Web medical cannabis bill encapsulated in House Bill 843 of the Florida Legislature has passed its committee hurdles and awaits a floor vote by the full House and Senate. The low THC strain of marijuana contemplated in the measure is for use solely for treatment of young epilepsy patients. Notwithstanding the limited use of the medical marijuana, the Florida Surgeon General spoke out against the bill at a committee hearing. At each stage of the legislative process, the bill received overwhelming bi-partisan support.
Governor Rick Scott remains silent on whether he will veto the measure if passed by the Florida House and Senate. The governor is a vocal opponent of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment up for a statewide vote in November. The proposed amendment was approved for the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court in January and is a major talking point for Scott’s presumed opponent, former governor Charlie Christ. The former governor is something of a political chameleon, having changed parties to make a run for governor again. Christ tends to be a political opportunist and sees the polling that a majority of Floridians support the proposed amendment. If the Charlotte’s Web bill passes floor votes in the House and Senate, which appears to be a strong possibility, Scott’s signature on the bill could help to thwart a marijuana driven political opportunity for Christ in November. In the event Scott vetoes HB 843, Christ will no doubt run a gamut of negative campaign ads against Scott in October featuring the mothers of epileptic children. Scott’s signature on the bill will blunt this potential assault.
While Scott no doubt is opposed to the Charlotte’s Web legislation on principle, he may sign the measure based on the limited nature of the use of medical cannabis and the strong, bi-partisan support the legislation has garnered as it passes through its various legislative committee hurdles. The Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Medical Association remain opposed to the measure. The physician group opposed the measure on the grounds of inadequate testing protocols. As to the sheriff’s, they oppose any foothold of medical marijuana as an approved treatment, fearing that any legalized use will open the door for marijuana legalization throughout the state.
The opposition presented by John Armstrong, the Florida Surgeon General, at the House committee hearing may signal Scott’s intent to veto the Charlotte’s Web bill. HB 843 has been substantially re-written since its introduction to the legislature. Physicians prescribing the medical cannabis must undergo additional education and training and will be monitored by the Florida Department of Health. The state will also keep a registry of patients allowed to use the low THC strain of marijuana. The bill also would create four dispensaries located throughout the state to sell the drug to the approved patients.
Although possible veto action by Florida Governor Rick Scott remains a strong possibility, the Charlotte’s Web low THC medical cannabis bill has passed all legislative committee hurdles and awaits floor action by the House and Senate. Given the overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle at the legislative committee levels, the strong likelihood is that the approved bill will land on Scott’s desk in the next week or so.
Opinion by William Costolo