Medical marijuana is now legal in the state of Florida — but can be used only in specific cases.
The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, known as the Charlotte’s Web law, creates a registry of users and gives guidelines for when doctors may prescribe the drug. Separate legislation protects the identities of people on the registry.
The law makes only one strain of pot legal for medical use, as opposed to Amendment 2, the proposed state constitutional amendment that goes before voters in November. The amendment would legalize all cannabis for medicinal use. Here are the basics of what you need to know.
So, now can we all light up?
No. Relatively few people will be able to use marijuana under the law, which specifically excludes smoking pot. It legalizes only an extraction of the marijuana plant, a cannabis oil that is then taken orally.
How does anybody get high off that?
They don’t. The law legalizes only a specific strain called Charlotte’s Web, which is high in cannabidiol (CBD), a substance that may help alleviate seizures. But it is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in marijuana that produces a high. You’d get about as high as you would trying to smoke a hemp rope. Besides, this law makes pot legal only for those with a medical need.
But I have a pain in my back that just started.
Nice try, but the law OKs the cannabis oil only for a very specific set of ailments. Doctors may prescribe it only to patients suffering from cancer or “a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms.” This is understood to include things like severe epilepsy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Can I start growing pot now?
Absolutely not. In order to grow Charlotte’s Web, your nursery must be certified by the state as capable of growing 400,000 or more plants and the nursery must have operated in the state for 30 continuous years. The law limits growers to just five nurseries — one each in northwest, northeast, central, southwest, and southeast Florida.
How many people will the oil actually help?
That’s a hard question to answer. Charlotte’s Web is named for Charlotte Figi, a little girl with a form of epilepsy so severe she suffered about 300 grand mal seizures every week. After use of the strain that would become named after her, her seizures dropped to two or three a month. Epilepsy affects about 1 in 100 people, according to the Center for Disease Control. Given that, about 200,000 people suffer from epilepsy in Florida. Although the law also allows access for people with some terminal diseases, there is no evidence the strain actually helps these ailments.
But at least it’ll help those with epilepsy, right?
Maybe. Although it certainly seemed to help in Figi’s case, anecdotal stories are not scientific evidence. And because the federal government still considers marijuana a controlled substance with no medical use, legitimate studies are difficult to carry out. Moreover, the marijuana now legal in Florida may not be precisely the same as the strain that helped Figi. That strain had 0.5 percent THC and 20 percent CBD, which, according to the original growers of Charlotte’s Web, made it the highest CBD-level strain in the world. But the Charlotte’s Web law in Florida legalizes marijuana that has up to 0.8 percent THC, 10 percent or more CBD, far from the original Charlotte’s Web’s 20 percent. So there’s some question of whether the marijuana now legal in Florida is even potent enough to help the kids for which it was intended.
What about Amendment 2?
The Legislature supported the Charlotte’s Web law based on the notion it would soften support for Amendment 2. Their thought is that since Charlotte’s Web is already legal, why throw the door open wider? But supporters of Amendment 2 say that because this law received such widespread support among traditionally anti-drug Republicans, Amendment 2 has a real chance of success among the electorate.
What will be the impact if Amendment 2 passes?
More people would be using pot, since Amendment 2 would make it legal for cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or any “other conditions for which a physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”
Depending on the strain used, some people would be getting high. The THC component of marijuana that serves as a painkiller, curbs nausea and increases appetite will make it useful for, say, cancer patients going through chemotherapy.
Growing and dispensing marijuana would be heavily regulated and difficult to break into, but it wouldn’t be limited to just five growers. The state Department of Health would create and regulate growers and dispensaries, but nobody yet knows exactly what it would do.
Source: Orlando Sentinel written by dsweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel