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House THC cap for minors may have no Senate path

Limits on THC, edibles eyed for kid cannabis patients.

The House is ready to vote on a THC cap for medical marijuana. If passed, that will leave the ball in the reluctant Senate’s court.

On Thursday, legislators approved a Rep. Ray Rodrigues amendment (434551) to HB 713 that would resuscitate a 10% cap for patients under 21.

Terminally ill patients, and those whose doctors make the case of exclusion, could be carved out for the more THC-heavy product.

This cap would apply to flowers and derivatives.

The proposal is more narrow demographically than the bill Rodrigues pushed last year, which was an all-ages THC cap.

“Fewer than 5% of patients are under 21,” Rodrigues noted on the floor Thursday, minimizing the impact of the cap.

The bill, which addresses the Children’s Medical Services Program and Florida Consortium of National Cancer Institute Centers Program, was up Thursday on the House Special Order calendar.

Rodrigues said in addition to the “potency cap” for minors, the language would prohibit renewing licenses of nonperforming Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers, refine statutory language on dosage limits per day and require that a testing lab be independent of cannabis companies, testing all forms of marijuana.

The amendment also bans THC-P, a genetically modified variant more than 10 times stronger than THC, Rodrigues noted.

Rodrigues said the Department of Health could impose via rule the potency cap if the law passes.

Critics of the cap, meanwhile, are “science deniers,” Rodrigues said.

He also said, “government oversight” is necessary to ensure that medical cannabis doctors don’t create the same issues that plagued Florida during the pill mill crisis.

Rodrigues expects a legal challenge if this law passes, but he also thinks the state would prevail.

Rep. Ralph Massulo, a doctor, backed the amendment sponsor’s science, saying high-THC cannabis “puts youth at risk.”

Rep. Cary Pigman, also a doctor, likewise backed the amendment, saying that THC has no “evidence of benefit” for pediatric treatment and has potential “deleterious” effects.

HB 713 was previously unrelated to medical marijuana, but Speaker José Oliva defended the amendment Wednesday.

“We really want to see THC caps,” Oliva added, “particularly for minors, some limitation on the types of chemicals that could possibly be detrimental to a young brain.”

The bill also contemplates a 200 mg THC cap daily on edibles for the younger cannabis cohort.

The issue, dormant much of the Legislative Session, was sparked anew last month when House Speaker Oliva suggested a cap for flower and derivatives was a “priority.”

The Speaker argues new super-strains in Europe produce “schizophrenic results, especially in young, developing brains.”

Though the House is poised to put limits on puff, the Senate is less than certain to pass it.

Senate President Bill Galvano noted Thursday that a Senate committee rejected a similar backdoor attempt to impose a cap for kids.

“The problem is,” Galvano said, “it was considered and it did not have the votes to pass.”

“It’s a tough vote over here,” Galvano said, adding that he would have supported the cap personally.

Senate Budget Chief Rob Bradley said Wednesday the cap faces an uphill battle in the Senate, citing “procedural issues right now.”

The Speaker, however, is “unaware of what particular hurdles they have there,” but wondered whether “appetite” for the cap exists on the other side of the Fourth Floor.

If the cap is to get through this year, it appears the most likely route is to camouflage it in less controversial garb. However, the Senate snuffed out the last effort to do so and could do so again.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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