Bill would allow individuals with sickle cell disease to use medical marijuana

The measure was filed Friday by Democratic state Rep. Patricia Williams.

Democratic state Rep. Patricia Williams is filing a measure that would allow individuals diagnosed with sickle cell disease to receive medical marijuana for treatment.

Sickle cell disease is not one of the 11 enumerated conditions that allow individuals to qualify for medical marijuana treatment. Those conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, testing positive for HIV or AIDS, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Individuals can also be added to the medical marijuana registry if they suffer from “[m]edical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated” or from a “terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification.”

Those suffering from chronic nonmalignant pain can also use the drug for treatment.

But the bill from Williams (HB 645) would add sickle cell disease to that list.

Sickle cell disease, like the many conditions already enumerated under Florida’s medical marijuana law, can cause acute pain among those suffering from the condition.

Florida isn’t the only state to approve medical marijuana while excluding sickle cell disease from the list of qualifying conditions. As reported by the Miami Herald, Arkansas also does not allow sickle cell patients to utilize the drug. Other states — such as Connecticut, Ohio and Pennsylvania — do offer medical marijuana to those diagnosed with sickle cell disease.

That Miami Herald piece also detailed pushback from some members of the black community who otherwise support the legalization of medical marijuana. Sickle cell disease disproportionately affects the black community, and some feel the lack of inclusion of the disease is unfair.

Earlier this year, Illinois began a program allowing individuals prescribed with opioids to qualify for the state’s medical-marijuana program. That shift has allowed individuals suffering from pain attributed to sickle cell disease to qualify for the drug in that state.

If successful, Williams’ legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Last updated on November 15, 2019

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


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