It's looking like the strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web could finally be available for medical use later this year. In April 2014, the Senate approved the bill by a 36-3 vote, and Rick Scott signed the bill into law soon after. But CW hit a bevy of issues on its way to being available to patients, particularly over how it would eventually be distributed.
But on Wednesday, an administrative law judge threw out the latest challenges to the Department of Health's rules, which means that CW could be on its way to finally being available.
Charlotte's Web, which is used mostly to help children with epilepsy, has very low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in it — which is the stuff that gets you high when you smoke weed.
Charlotte's Web contains 0.5 percent THC and isn't smoked but, rather, converted into an oil for use. It also must be prescribed by a doctor.
The 2013 CNN documentary Weed showcased Charlotte Figi, a 5-year-old girl whose epileptic seizures were radically reduced after she was given her first dose of medical marijuana by her parents. The Charlotte's Web strain is named after her.
With the ruling being tossed, the Florida Department of Health is expected to start accepting applications within three weeks from eligible growers for Charlotte's Web, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Potential growers could start selling Charlotte's Web to pre-approved patients who are registered with the "compassionate use registry" in the coming months.
In a statement released Wednesday, the department says that it's "moving swiftly to facilitate access to the product before the end of the year."
"Today's ruling allows the department to move forward with implementing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, approved by the Legislature in 2014," the statement also says. "The department remains committed to ensuring safe and efficient access to this product for children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer."
For now, Charlotte's Web will remain the only legal form of medical marijuana until advocates look to get the issue back on the ballot in 2016.
A couple of medical marijuana bills had been introduced in the current session, including HB 683, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, that called for a nonsmokable form of medical marijuana that would have been prescribed to patients suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS, ALS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease, or a terminal illness.
In late January, Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced the Florida Medical Marijuana Act, which would have authorized a doctor to use medicinal marijuana to treat patients afflicted with similar diseases. Brandes had also introduced a bill with Sen. Bob Bradley that would have helped patients with debilitating diseases get quicker access to a form of medical marijuana that was low in THC.
Those bills ended up dying after the legislative session ended three days early.