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House passes THC cap for medical pot

It’s now up to the Senate whether to move forward.

The House on Friday approved by a 79-31 vote a THC cap for medical marijuana. The vote, on what had been an unrelated bill, may not be supported in the Senate.

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

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

Rodrigues noted this affects few patients on Thursday.

“Fewer than 5% of patients are under 21,” he said.

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

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

Republican doctors backed his read of the science.

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 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.

The Speaker 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 and could do so again.

Written By

A.G. 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 AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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