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Thursday July 31st 2014

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Charlotte’s Web bill continues to move forward

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The House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a measure that would open the door for a strain of marijuana that supporters believe can dramatically reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy. But many members of the panel made it clear Thursday they were only signing off on the part of the bill that earmarks $1 million for research into a non-euphoric strain of marijuana, known as “Charlotte’s Web,” and that the measure (HB 843) still needs work.

The House proposal, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, would give retailers, growers and users of the substance an “affirmative defense” if they are arrested for growing or possessing marijuana that contains .8 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, the element in marijuana that gets users high, and more than 10 percent of the derivative cannabidiol, or CBD. Backers of the hybrid say that the combination of the low THC and high CBD relieves sometimes-fatal seizures in children who suffer from epilepsy and do not respond to other treatments. The substance may also be beneficial in treating other conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease, Gaetz said.

Growers, distributors and users would self-regulate under his proposal, Gaetz said. “They would have to make darn sure that it wasn’t any of the fun stuff” because law enforcement could inspect six times a year. But some representatives preferred the Senate version of the bill, which includes state regulation and oversight.

Gaetz said he plans to amend his bill at the next committee stop and could include a measure that would create a “pre-clearance” where growers and users could prove before they get arrested that the marijuana in their possession meets the low THC, high CBD criteria.

Others are leery of supporting any marijuana-related measures, especially as the Republican Party fiercely opposes a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow doctors to write prescriptions for the traditional marijuana.

The issue is causing “heartburn” for many legislators, Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said Thursday. “The perception will be if we’re passing this, that we’re giving approval to marijuana. … I worry about that perception yet I don’t want to deny relief that it could cause to some real human beings who are suffering.”

–source The News Service of Florida