Article: Florida Republicans Still Trying to Pass Anti-Cannabis Laws

The Miami New Times reports

Over the past four years, more than 2,000 doctors have issued cannabis recommendations for more than 500,000 Florida residents, enabling them to obtain medical marijuana cards and purchase a wide range of cannabis products to treat a wide range of ailments. The cardholders range from senior citizens with glaucoma to children with epilepsy and everybody in between.

n 2016, 71 percent of Florida voters approved an amendment to legalize medical marijuana, despite Republican efforts to derail the measure. The vote was a rare show of unity in a politically divided state.

Florida’s Republican lawmakers responded by launching a nonstop campaign based on lies, myths, and misinformation to restrict access to the plant, despite polls showing more than half of Republican voters in the state support the legalization of cannabis.

The latest Republican attempt to sabotage the industry involves the party’s never-ending obsession with THC levels. A bill sponsored by state Rep. Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers would restrict THC levels in cannabis flower to 10 percent. The bill would also restrict other cannabis products, such as concentrates, to 60 percent. A similar bill failed to pass last year.

THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets people high, but it also is effective in alleviating pain and managing symptoms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, nausea, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, among other conditions.

Miami doctor Herve Damas, who is certified by the state to recommend cannabis to patients, is one voice in a chorus of doctors who oppose the bill.

“The only people this [bill] serves are alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical interests,” Damas says. “The reason being is when you have medical marijuana or adult-use programs, you’ll see a decrease in purchases of alcohol, you’ll see a decrease in purchases of tobacco, you’ll see a decrease in purchases of over-the-counter and prescription drugs.”

Roach’s bill would also make it harder for children to obtain medical marijuana, by requiring two pediatricians to approve a single recommendation for a child before they are able to receive cannabis.

“They are making it nearly impossible for any child to get a recommendation because there are maybe only three board-certified pediatricians in Florida who can recommend cannabis,” says Moriah Barnhart, one of the state’s leading marijuana activists.

Barnhart’s advocacy started after her now-10-year-old daughter, Dahlia, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer at age 2. Dahlia responded better to cannabis than to traditional treatments.

“Nothing has helped my daughter the way cannabis does, not even with all the world’s best scientists and researchers and all the best medicine at our fingertips,” Barnhart says. “Cannabis improves her quality of life. It enables her to sleep, as well as eat and drink without a feeding tube, allowing her to gain enough weight to walk. Cannabis likely saved her life.”

The THC cap would also affect adults like Jenifer Perdomo, a Miami woman who turned to cannabis after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2015. Perdomo uses cannabis concentrates with THC levels close to 90 percent, but the bill would reduce that to 60 percent.

“I need the cannabis to be as strong as possible because I am allergic to pain medicine like morphine, which is what is prescribed for my type of pain,” Perdomo says.

In February, after successfully keeping the cancer at bay for several years with the help of cannabis, Perdomo says the disease began attacking areas of her body that had previously been spared, and she was once again hospitalized.

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