THC caps clear first House committee hurdle, but face uncertain future in Senate

Prune Marijuana Plants ways. Harvesting and Processing Commercial cannabis
Sen. Jeff Brandes could pose a threat in the Senate.

How high is too high? Rep. Spencer Roach says he knows.

Roach’s legislation (HB 1455) would limit the amount of euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Doctors and patients are taking advantage of our medical program to do two things: Get rich and get high. Period,” Roach said.

Roach’s bill cleared the Professions and Public Health Subcommittee on a party line 12-6 vote, with Republicans for the proposal and Democrats opposed.

Under the hotly contested bill, smokable plants would be capped at 10% THC by volume. Most smokable cannabis offered to patients at medical dispensaries has more THC than that. It would also limit THC in edibles to 15% and set a 60% max on all other cannabis products.

The potency caps from Roach’s legislation would not apply to terminal patients.

The bill would also restrict minors from obtaining anything other than “low-THC” cannabis unless a physician states otherwise and a second concurring physician opinion is received.

In a Monday press conference, House Democratic leadership spoke out against the bill.

“If you cut the potency in half, people are just going to take double the amount they take. It is, in my opinion, a very bad idea. But I think the intent is not to have this be a good idea where more people are getting the medicine they need. I think the idea is to drive down sales as much as possible,” Co-Leader Evan Jenne said.

Detractors at the subcommittee meeting said potency caps will increase costs to patients, which they say are already too high.

“Patient costs and access to medical cannabis as an issue is what I heard about all summer,” Orlando Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said.

Rep. Anna Eskamani also said the caps infringe on medical decisions better left between a patient and their doctor.

“When it comes to medicinal cannabis, like any other type of medicine, it really is important that a doctor has the decision-making power with that patient,” Eskamani said.

Roach said the current process cannot be trusted. He urged lawmakers to prevent what he warned would be a repeat of the state’s “pill mill” crisis about a decade ago, when rogue doctors dished out untold numbers of prescriptions for opioids to patients who lacked true medical reasons for the highly addictive pain medications.

“In the state of Florida, we have seen this play out before. We know how it ends, and we don’t need a sequel,” he said.

“I would say trusting doctors is exactly what got us into the opioid crisis,” Roach added. “We have doctors taking advantage of this program to get rich, and we have patients, who are drug-seeking, take advantage of this program to get high.”

Democrats attempted to ease portions of the bill they found unsavory through the amendment process, proposing a series of amendments that would expand access to medical cannabis.

Eskamani offered two amendments. One would decrease costs for users by increasing the length of time a marijuana identification card lasts from one year to two years, and another would have added addiction to the list of qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana certification.

Rep. Michele Raynor also offered two amendments. One amendment would allow marijuana certificates through telehealth appointments, and another would have added sickle cell anemia to the list of qualifying medical conditions.

Smith offered an amendment that would repeal all of the THC caps the bill intended to put in place.

All amendments were voted down.

Sometimes decked in pot leaf masks, a parade of testifiers took issue with the studies Roach cited, highlighting the lack of consensus on the science.

“The studies that were used to support these caps showed an association — not a cause. And that is a big difference scientifically,” Dr. Michele Beasley, who owns a medical practice and issues marijuana certifications, said.

The lack of definitive research is an issue that echoes the U.S. Senate’s drug caucus report released last week, which suggested THC caps might be a good idea, but more research is still needed. The report also said research is difficult to conduct because THC is classified as a controlled substance, and the Drug Enforcement Agency strictly regulates controlled substances even for research purposes.

The Republican-controlled Legislature has maintained a dim view of cannabis since laying out a blueprint for the state’s medical marijuana industry after the passage of the 2016 constitutional amendment.

State lawmakers’ approach that has required marijuana operators to grow, produce and dispense cannabis products — a process known as “vertical integration” — spurred numerous lawsuits, including a major legal challenge which remains pending before the Florida Supreme Court. They also initially banned smokable medical marijuana before DeSantis pushed through the change.

The issue of caps has come up before. The Florida House passed a 10% THC cap for patients under 21 in 2020. That measure died in the Senate.

And it’s likely to face major hurdles in the Senate again this year. While Senate leadership has suggested the chamber might be more friendly to similar legislation, Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate measure’s first committee of reference is unlikely to schedule the bill for a hearing. Brandes is a libertarian-minded conservative who has shown past support for medical cannabis and opposition to efforts to thwart it. Accordingly, the bill (SB 1958) has yet to be placed on his committee’s agenda.

The House bill now heads to the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

Floridians approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that broadly legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions. More than 500,000 Florida residents have been authorized by doctors to use the treatment, and the number of patients continues to climb.

_____

Content from The News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Haley Brown

Haley Brown covers state government for FloridaPolitics.com. Previously, Haley covered the West Virginia Legislature and anchored weekend newscasts for WVVA in Bluefield, W.Va. Haley is a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Florida. You can reach her at [email protected]


18 comments

  • ANDREW SINGER

    March 9, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Horrible policy. How did this happen?

  • Marshall McLane

    March 9, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    Do they understand Marijuana is not Opioids?

    • john

      March 17, 2021 at 3:35 pm

      we are not talking about stupid here we are talking about arrogant ignorance..think about that the next time you finish off a “roach”..I believe it’s on record somewhere that cannabis not only takes away pain in a so far safe manner unlike oxy and the rest of the evil pain/people killer cadre that enslave even the strongest of wills, but it also serves to steer people from etoh and tobacco..even the benign [NOT] kidney killer tylenol .. cant hold a candle to cannabis..and on top of everything it is not addictive..I wonder has anyone tried to cap the alcohol content of liquor..things are going to change and marijuana is part of helping that change along..I just spent 50 years of my life working in the hospital and can truly say I never met a marijuana addict..if these geniuses in government really want to help people, first they are going to have to pull their collective head..well never mind..NO TO THE CAP as it will only rebirth street dealing and enliven that pathetic alphabet group known as the ..well you know! thanks for the space and the legitimate original question regarding cognitive skills needed to differentiate cannabis sativa from the really harmful so called therapeutic poisons made so readily available by we wonder who!!!!

  • Nichole E West

    March 9, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Thats not actually what the law states. You actually mis read the portion regarding VARIANCE that percentage that you quote is the variance NOT the actual limit.

    Please call if you would like help reading this

  • Larry

    March 9, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    This is a ridiculous bill (1455).The voters spoke,,,move on.. Lower the alcohol percentage in booze, it is the real poison. Medical Marijuana is in its own league. It is already exempt from some HEPPA laws and the only medication that is ILLEGAL to cross state lines and have in your passion.

  • Scott Derby

    March 10, 2021 at 2:09 am

    As a lifelong Republican and retired state law enforcement officer, I oppose this proposed legislation, which is supported by prohibitionists. I shall support libertarian-leaning conservatives, hence real conservatives, who have learned from history that the prohibitionist policies of the past have failed miserably all the while making us all less safe, corrupting the criminal justice system, and eroding our constitutional liberties. For what purpose? To what end? More civil asset forfeitures, more violent crime, more victims, more incarceration, etc. The prohibitionist war on cannabis is simply a war on people. Please support real conservatives, like Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in opposing this ill-conceived legislation by ill-designing neocons.

  • Ian

    March 10, 2021 at 7:41 am

    I’ve contacted Rep Roach about 10 times this morning to give him a piece of my mind

  • Dan Rowland

    March 10, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    I’m a retired Firefighter from NYC and former military. I have sustained multiple injuries including a severe spinal cord compression, fused wrist, torn shoulder, PTSD, and depression, all while serving my country and city. Until 2 years ago I would have to pee in a paper cup, have my medication counted like a child, and had to answer for every pain med not accounted for. I actually felt like a criminal trying to get help with pain and mental issues. Florida’s medical cannabis program has absolutely been a miracle for me. I no longer use Vicodin, antidepressants or muscle relaxers, and I have a new lease on my life. Now a politician that luckily doesn’t need any of these meds or cannabis feels he needs to protect me from these cannabis evils. Just another useless politician trying desperately to justify his existence… please correct our other issues before creating a new one!!!!

  • Jaze Beel

    March 11, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    I thought Republicans supported patriotic veterans suffering from PTSD. Guess not.

  • Tony

    March 11, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    Do these people have anything better to do? The only reason a person goes out and buys a medical card is because they want the thc. Trulieve must of not gave enough politicians a satisfying kick back.

  • DaMarcus

    March 11, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    Thank yourselves for this happening. They removed home grows in the 2016 amendment. That means you will get government weed, practically what we got. You should have read the amendment before voting. Same bill without grow ops to allow for exactly this.

  • Deb Head

    March 11, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    I finally got relief for my anxiety and depression and hypertension hep c that I have suffered from some for 45 years due to trauma. I have a high tolerance and on a very limited income.I. Don’t like taking prescription drugs that don’t help as much. Please Improve patients potently and affordability instead of looking at it as a recreation. Leave it to Dr and dont compare to pill mills. Change the class is not like heroin will not kill. Let drs and people choose and please don’t ruin for real who Need it It’s not fun and games regulate Alcohol It Kills

  • Kathleen

    March 14, 2021 at 8:33 am

    Good reason to get out of Florida. FREE THE PLANT AND LET US GROW

    • Melissa

      March 16, 2021 at 7:46 pm

      Preach it!

  • Carl B.

    March 16, 2021 at 8:50 am

    If the Lawmakers are citing “Doctors and patients are taking advantage of our medical program to do two things: Get rich and get high. Period,” Roach said. Well sir, the State also has their hands in the “pot”. Go ahead a put a cap limit on MMJ and see how fast your revenues drop from those of us who “legally” consume MMJ. I will go right back to growing my own or going through “illegal sources”. Florida will never see another penny from me from MMJ tax revenue. There’s a “good thing” going on, don’t screw up a good thing FloriDUH…

  • Jade

    March 16, 2021 at 10:18 am

    Sounds to me like he isn’t getting enough cash flow from the reduced number of medical marijuana patients. Remember November 2020 when chronic malignant pain was removed from list of reasons that are approved for prescriptions.. He wants less users to pay higher prices, so his cookie jar reflects the cash flow that initially hit the floor running on approval .. SHAME on all representatives that voted with Spencer Roach!! shame on you for thinking more about money than you do the suffering of other people..

  • Matt Freund

    March 16, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    I just got approved for my medical marijuana card and it has changed my life and my quality of life. Two weeks later we are now facing this. I voted for this in 2016 and support at Foley. I’m 51 years old with cerebral palsy and this is the only thing that has worked for me to give me a quality of life. This is really important that we have no THC caps. Why don’t they just give us what we want already and stop messing with it. If half 1 million people have cards why don’t they see that it’s a good thing

  • Thomas Paine

    March 16, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    The govt of Florida, and most of the Republican Party, are true enemies of the people. Real Americans do not want to tell others what they can and cannot put into their own bodies.

    The question is: what are we doing to do about it?

Comments are closed.


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