A House committee approved a bill Wednesday morning that would alter Florida’s medical marijuana program by placing limits on the level of THC in weed for smoking. The bill would also provide free medical marijuana identification cards to veterans and it would be harder for sick children to get full-strength medical marijuana.
It was the limit on THC that was the focus of the debate in the House Health & Human Services committee, which was the first time the bill was heard in the committee process.
Critics argue the bill is an attempt by the House to restrict the bill lawmakers passed last month at the urging of Gov. Ron DeSantis that permits smokeable marijuana for medical purposes.
Under the House proposal, the THC level would be limited at 10 percent. Industry representatives say that level is far less than the daily amount of THC that would be permitted in edible products, which is set at 7,000 mg for a 35-day supply. That amounts to 200 mg per day.
“If you’re trying to discourage people from smoking, by passing this bill you’ll actually be encouraging people to smoke more,” Ron Watson of AltMed Enterprises told the committee.
“I do believe if we pass this it’s going to strengthen the black market and we’re trying to do everything we can to move away from that,” Watson added.
But supporters of the 10 percent limit say there is good reason to limit the amount of THC in smokable medical marijuana.
Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Augustine, pointed to some reports that link high levels of THC to psychosis.
“There is a high correlation with the use and the onset of psychosis,” Stevenson said. “That’s very serious. I think it’s appropriate we use caution.”
The bill’s sponsor pointed to other studies that show higher levels of THC can actually exacerbate pain in a patient that uses medical marijuana.
Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Pensacola, says of the 15 states that have placed restrictions on THC in medical marijuana, Florida’s cap would be the highest along with New Jersey.
“Why did we choose 10 percent and reject the other 14 state’s that had a cap lower?” said Rodrigues. “Because that’s where the science led us.”
But, Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Palm Beach, urged committee members to be mindful of the will of the voters who passed the amendment legalizing medical marijuana in 2016.
“What I don’t want to happen is years later we find ourselves in a lot of trouble in the courts because we’ve done things on our own and have gone against the will of the people,” Jones said.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the substance that in marijuana that produces a euphoric feeling in people who use it.
The House bill does not have companion legislation in the Senate, but it’s proposals are expected to be amended onto a Senate bill that would increase the minimum tobacco-smoking age in Florida from 18 to 21.