State representatives made drug law history yesterday when they held the first ever Florida legislative hearing on a specific medical therapeutic use of marijuana. The topic was "Charlotte's Web" a strain of the demon weed said to be greatly effective in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy.
In some folks' view, a great advantage of CW is that it is has no euphoric effect. Bummer. But if that's what it takes to get the stuff out of the arms of John Law and into the hands of patients, so be it.
Broward Rep. Katie Edwards, Democrat, appears to have taken the lead on CW. Though not a member of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, which held yesterday's hearing, Edwards touted the news to NPR late last week. She and committee chair Matt Gaetz, Republican, plan to introduce a Charlotte's Web bill next month.
Testifying to the committee yesterday were parents of children with epilepsy, including Paige Figi of Colorado Springs. It was the dramatic recovery of her daughter, Charlotte, that prompted the pot strain's growers, the Stanley Brothers, to christen it in her honor. Previously it had been known as "Hippie's Disappointment" since, as Joel Stanley told the committee, "They can smoke it till they get a headache, but they're not going to get high." (In fact, for medical purposes, Charlotte's Web is administered as an oil.)
The parents' testimonies "really brought home the therapeutic side of the argument," committee member Rep. Dave Kerner (D-Lake Worth) told New Times. A former police officer, he said "the only interaction I'd had with controlled substances was taking people to jail. It's easy to forget that it's not the substance itself, but the way it's used."
News of the Charlotte's Web hearing first came to us via the Facebook page of State Sen. Jeff Clemens. One of Florida's leading legislative lights on medical marijuana, the Palm Beach Democrat praised Edwards, Gaetz and the committee for "an inspiring day."
While Charlotte's Web may be a step towards enlightened drug policy, Clemens' Facebook post drew a cautionary comment from one Steve Beson, who worried about "strain competition for medical application. Limit the types of cannabis you limit the ability for new strains and better medicine."
To which Clemens replied:
I hear you, Steve. But often, the legislative process works in steps. Remember, we haven't even had a hearing on this issue in the three years I've been working in it. Sea change usually comes over time, or as the result of something like a constitutional amendment ;-).
In another interesting turn, rising GOP star Matt Gaetz, whose Panhandle roots make his support for medical marijuana something of a surprise, came in for praise from David McKinney of the Florida Cannabis Action Network:
Rep. Gaetz showed some resolve in getting this done and took pains to ask the right questions of speakers for everyone to understand the gravity, urgency and absurdity of the situation regarding the availability of hemp oil for treating seizures in the light of the mounting evidence.
Video of yesterday's hearing here.
Florida Cannabis Action Network here.
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