Severely sick children who are unable to find relief through the use of traditional drugs are the most compelling argument to legalize a form of non-euphoric marijuana that might ease their pain. It appears both chambers of the Florida Legislature agree and are on track to make the drug, called Charlotte's Web, available in Florida. But lawmakers' plans differ widely. The smarter path is the Senate's plan to legalize the drug and tightly regulate it.
Charlotte's Web is a strain of marijuana that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which causes euphoric feelings. It has high amounts of cannabidiol, an ingredient known for treating seizures. Developed in Colorado, the strain was named after 7-year-old Charlotte Figi, who had a severe form of epilepsy and at one point was having 300 seizures a day. Figi found relief from the drug, which typically is administered in liquid or capsule form.
Officials estimate that about 125,000 children in Florida might benefit from Charlotte's Web. Several families have gone to Tallahassee to plead with lawmakers to embrace their cause. A Senate plan (SB 1030) proposes creating a compassionate care registry where doctors would list patients with severe chronic seizures who had been in their care for at least six months. The Department of Health would regulate marijuana dispensaries and monitor the registries for abuse.
But a measure in the House (HB 843) is not nearly so succinct. It falls short of legalizing Charlotte's Web and instead focuses on stopping those who possess the drug for legitimate medical reasons from suffering consequences if they are caught. It discourages law enforcement and state attorneys from making arrests and prosecuting users and growers if the drugs meet the chemical makeup of Charlotte's Web. It provides a path for after-the-fact forgiveness and to have records expunged if the arrestee can prove the marijuana in question was to be consumed by a person under a doctor's care. That is a waste of time for parents with sick children, who deserve better than to be treated as guilty until proven innocent.
Lawmakers can't have it both ways. They should legalize Charlotte's Web in Florida, create an appropriate regulatory structure and send a clear, uniform message to law enforcement about illegal behavior. Otherwise they invite confusion and create a culture of fear and covert behavior around something that everyone agrees is intended for good. Both bills are still in committee, and lawmakers should make adjustments. It would be a shame for legislators to squander an opportunity to help children because they failed to get the law right the first time.
See the video below to learn more about Charlotte's Web.