Florida currently has one of the most valuable medical marijuana markets in the US, but that fact isn't stopping conservative lawmakers from continually trying to gut the program.
State Rep. Spencer Roach (D) and Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R) have filed two bills that would impose arbitrary THC limits on medical cannabis products sold in the state. These bills would place a 10 percent THC cap on smokable flower and a 16 percent on most other medical cannabis products, with the exception of edibles. The bills would also create new advertising restrictions for physicians who are authorized to order medical pot for their patients.
Florida lawmakers initially legalized medical marijuana in 2014, but this extremely limited program only allowed the use of low-THC products to treat a handful of health issues. Two years later, an overwhelming 71 percent of state voters approved a ballot initiative that vastly expanded the state's medical marijuana program. This new law expanded the list of qualifying conditions and legalized the sale of higher-THC products, including smokable flower.
Immediately after voters approved this measure, conservative lawmakers scrambled to cripple it. In 2017, the state passed a law banning all forms of smokable medical marijuana, but cannabis activists sued the state, and courts overturned the ban on smokable weed in 2018. Since then, the state's medical pot industry has grown by leaps and bounds to become the fourth-largest legal pot market in the country.
But even though the Sunshine State moved $1.2 billion worth of medical pot last year, politicians still want to gut this exceptionally effective program. Proponents of these caps have cited older research suggesting that high-THC cannabis can have adverse mental health effects, but more recent research has largely debunked these myths.
These proposed THC limits "are unnecessary and not scientifically based and only serve to create more barriers," said physician Sacha Noe to The News Service of Florida. Noe explained that the new legislation “continues to encroach on the practice of medicine between a physician and their patients using outdated, random and scientifically unsubstantiated information.”
Advocates are arguing that these new limits would drastically increase the cost of medical marijuana for patients, who would be forced to buy and use more lower-THC weed to obtain the same effects as more potent medicine. "Marijuana is medicine,” state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told the News Service. “A THC cap will limit its impact and increase costs, forcing hundreds of thousands of sick patients to buy from the illegal market."
"Some members of the Florida Legislature are still hung up in the past and don’t respect the will of the voters," said Orlando attorney John Morgan, a major supporter of the 2016 amendment, to the News Service. "The current system is working with ZERO problems. Unlike the pharmaceutical and alcohol industry where we see deaths routinely and huge human suffering. In the middle of a global pandemic some legislators are focused on a non-problem while we can’t get [COVID vaccinations]. It’s beyond sad. And why politicians are so universally despised."