Florida could be first state to limit THC in smokable medical marijuana

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Ray Rodrigues filed to amend Senate bill, implement 10% cap.

A legislative proposal could make Florida the first state to regulate tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, levels in smokable medical marijuana.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, earlier this year sponsored legislation (HB 7117) to limit the levels.

The bill was sent to the House floor but awaits a vote. The Senate has not acted on the issue.

Now, Rodrigues has filed an amendment with the 10 percent THC cap to a health care licensing bill (SB 188) already passed by the Senate. He wants the measure added before the House approves the legislation.

That bill, on the “special order” calendar, is scheduled to be heard in the House Tuesday night. That means members can ask questions about the measure and offer amendments.

When he carried his own bill in the House, Rodrigues argued marijuana plants today have too high a THC potency. Some have levels as high as 35 percent, he said.

He argued in committee that products with a higher THC potency have the potential to cause psychosis.

A study published last month by The Lancet backs that claim up, to a degree.

It found patients with certain psychiatric conditions who use high-potency cannabis face five times the risk for a psychotic disorder.

Critics of The Lancet study say it’s limited in scope and patients with the high-risk conditions leading to psychosis make up a minuscule proportion of medical marijuana patients.

Marijuana advocates, who with the support of Gov. Ron DeSantis just won the political fight for smokable marijuana, also say Rodrigues’ proposal moved medical regulation in the wrong direction.

While supporters of caps on THC say 17 states already have such limits in place, none do for “whole flower,” meaning smokable marijuana.

To even get to the number 17 requiring any THC limits takes creativity.

One must include three states — Idaho, South Dakota and Nebraska — where medical marijuana remains illegal.

The other 14 states only allow cannabidiol, or CBD, oils to be used medicinally. CBD contains only trace amounts of THC, the compound in marijuana that produces a “high.”

Texas, for example, just rolled out a program allowing oils with no greater than 10 percent THC for medical use. But the state does not allow medical marijuana to be smoked.

“The only states where you are going to find limits on THC are the CBD-only states,” confirmed Carly Wolf, state policies coordinator with NORML. No state allowing patients to smoke marijuana limits how much THC can be found in the plant.

Additionally, Rodrigues’ proposal doesn’t address THC concentrations for vaporizer oils, which can have concentrations in the range of 75 percent.

Opponents argue that the regulation would cause medical marijuana costs to skyrocket — if it takes only one or two puffs for the desired medicinal effect of a higher-concentration whole flower product, one capped at 10 percent would require patients to consume more.

Requiring patients to smoke more marijuana also runs counter to the House’s longtime position that smoking was not a “proper” way to consume the medicine.

Florida is one of 23 states that has a medical marijuana program in place but where recreational marijuana remains against state law.

And while the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, federal law now prohibits the U.S. Justice Department from spending funds to interfere with state medical marijuana programs.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


22 comments

  • Russell Marshall

    April 30, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Ray Rodrigues needs to be voted out. The statistics this man uses can only come from his own butt.

    • John Wearden

      April 30, 2019 at 10:54 pm

      We worked too hard for medicinal marihuana to let the government put limits on the strength. This new law is The first step. Before long it will be reduced to nothing.

  • Jane Peters

    May 1, 2019 at 12:37 am

    So Rep. Ray Rodrigues wants to make cannabis weaker so people will have to smoke more for the desired effect? This will probably cause people to smoke more and thereby get asthma and maybe lung damage. Rep. Ray Rodrigues should instead work to make tobacco illegal. It’s a very addictive drug that kills thousand of Americans annually.

  • Robert A Combes

    May 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

    once again the legislature is saying that we have a better sense of what is going on than the voting public and their votes. The pharm cos will be delighted when they buy up all the producers in FL

  • William Trotter

    May 1, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Hey politicians, keep your noses outta my business. You are not qualified to make these decisions. My doctor is, butt out

  • J

    May 1, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    You want to limit flower to 10% but you can get wax that’s 90%. This guys a dumb ass

  • Bruce Colburn

    May 1, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Maybe Rodriguez is actually on the Mexican drug cartel payroll.American producers are producing high THC content Mexican producers are producing 10% or less no one wants their Mexican illegal dirt weed but I guess if Rodriguez has his way instead of paying $400 an ounce for medical you could buy $60 Mexican illegal drug cartel cannabis. Or he’s in it with the pharmacies trying to force the pharmaceutical side of pure THCand to obtain 20% THC you would have to buy $800 worth of medical marijuana.either way I think Rodriguez has his hand in the cookie jar pulling out wads of cash for himself. I don’t believe for a minute he’s doing this to benefit anyone but himself and his friends.

  • Smitty

    May 1, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Rodriguez is the north end of a south bound mule. Any who votes yes on this knee-jerk bill is also.

  • Philip

    May 2, 2019 at 10:48 am

    Ok we are all unhappy with Rodriguez but get over it. Now who is going to be voting on this? After we get their names, phone numbers and e/mail addresses. We can flood them with calls and e/mails from Medical Marijuana Patients.

  • Susan

    May 2, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    That isn’t what we voted for. Why does the state want to keep people addicted to opioids? Stock in pharmaceuticals perhaps? The Government is voted of, by and for the people. Government in NOT there to control the people! Do your job the right way!!!

  • Jose

    May 4, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Just to put it into perspective, if you put a cap on THC concentration for medical grade marijuana; People are going to buy it on the streets again. Unless that’s exactly what he’s aiming for, this is a useless bill.

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  • Kevin Preston

    May 9, 2019 at 1:44 am

    How about do what you Republicans keep screaming which is to get Government out of our lives.

    Hypocrites every single one of you and Rubio being the worst of them.

    I have never smoked it but since the VA took my MANAGED Percocet prescription away in this useless war on Heroin and Fentanyl flowing across our Southern Border I am ready to try it.
    I am certainly not going to live the rest of my life in pain thanks to my time in the US Army for 22+ years.

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