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Florida Legislature Weighs Caps On Medical Marijuana Potency

clump of marijuana in a glass container
Marijuana at a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.

A controversial bill aimed at capping the amount of THC in medical cannabis continues to inch closer to the house floor over opposition from medical professionals.

House Bill 1455 aims to regulate the state's medical cannabis industry, that’s according to the bill's sponsor Republican Rep. Spencer Roach. The bill would cap the amount of cannabis a treatment center can dispense in a certain amount of time, and adds advertising restrictions to medical cannabis physicians. However, the provisions in the measure that are drawing the most backlash involve a potency cap in smokable flower to 10%. Today the typical level of THC in a medicinal cannabis plant is around 25% to 30%. Roach said he’s seen a lack of evidence for a need for THC potency higher than that.

“To my knowledge, there isn’t anywhere or anywhere in the world a credible scientific study that shows a medicinal value of THC in concentration over 10% so I think that’s why that’s the basis for the 10% cap on smokable that’s the science behind," he said during a meeting of the House Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee.

There is an overall lack of medical marijuana research in general, due to years of bans at the state and federal level.

Most medical cannabis growers grow plants with higher levels of THC. Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says this cap will disrupt the industry and threaten overall access to smokable flowers to medical users.

“They most grow it here they must grow it under our climate conditions. They must grow it within the border of this state, and if you’ve met with any of growers they will tell you we cannot produce flower at ten percent or less as required under this bill.”

Smith offered amendments that would issue a study on the effects of high amounts of THC. All of Smith’s amendments failed.

“Our medical marijuana program is becoming a recreational drug use program operating under the guise of a medical marijuana program," said Roach.

In debate, Roach claimed in 2021, 71% of medical cannabis prescriptions were filed by just 12% of qualified physicians with some doctors prescribing huge amounts of medical cannabis to individuals. He believes the urgency of this bill is to regulate the industry before more "bad actors" get involved and likens the current landscape to the opioid and pill mill crisis years ago.

“And just like the opioid crisis we saw it overprescribed and we saw this medication getting trafficked across state lines. We saw it ended up in our high schools and being sold to children," said Roach.

Physicians are pushing back. In a zoom call after the bill's passage in a party-line vote in the committee, a group of doctors who certify patients for medical cannabis cards in Florida challenged Roach's claims. Former ER doctor Barry Gordon is the owner of Compassionate Cannabis Clinic.

“We’re not a pill mill we’re not an accessory of anybody’s drug crisis. Patients are coming to me with three desires every single day they want to feel the best they can, they want to do it in the safest most natural most plant-based least pharma and most controllable by them way that they can," he said.

Roach says he did not consult with any medical cannabis physicians. The bill has one more committee stop before reaching the House floor.