EnforcementMedical and PharmaceuticalRegulationsUSFlorida’s new medical cannabis limits could drive patients underground: lawyer

State has voted to cap THC potency at 10% for patients under 21, edibles at 200 mg
Michelle Gamage Michelle GamageMarch 9, 20208 min

A Florida bill that limits the potency of medical cannabis with the stated goal of protecting developing brains could have the opposite intended effect by pushing patients underground, according to a Canadian cannabis lawyer. 

On Friday, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill to cap the potency of medical cannabis at 10 per cent THC per volume for patients under 21-years-old, and limited daily THC quantity to 200 milligrams for edibles, or around 23 grams of smokable weed for older patients. 

The omnibus healthcare bill passed 79 to 31 and is now in front of the senate. 

But limiting patients’ access to medical cannabis, which has been legal in Florida since 2016, will only push patients towards less legal or legitimate sources, cannabis lawyer John Conroy told Mugglehead. 

Conroy, who practices in British Columbia, has fought in court for patient access to medical cannabis in Canada.

Florida's new medical cannabis limits could drive patients underground: lawyer
Cannabis lawyer John Conroy says limiting patient access to medical cannabis can drive people to unregulated markets. Submitted photo

“My experience has been when you prohibit something for which there is a demand, particularly if the demand is medical, people will go underground,” Conroy said. 

That’s the last thing regulators should want, he added. Illicit market cannabis is, by definition, unregulated. And patients won’t have any control over what is in the weed, where it comes from or if it meets health and safety standards, he said. 

Medical cannabis patients aren’t likely to look at the new bill and happily change their dosage, he added. 

“A medical patient who has used the stuff for sometime and has benefited from it, for the government to say, ‘You’ve gotta buy 10 packages instead of one, or if you’re a teenager you can’t’ — I’m sorry but that just doesn’t make sense,” he said. 

Medical cannabis dosage limits designed to protect developing brains

Updates to the bill were intended to protect the developing brains of children and teenagers, House Republicans told New4Jax. 

“Those who say cannabis has no effect on the developing brain are science deniers,” Republican Ray Rodrigues said. 

But that argument doesn’t make sense for medical cannabis, according to Conroy.

“If you’re medically approved — a doctor approves you for a certain amount and says that’s what you need — you need a stronger thing,” Conroy said. “Why are we not making that available for the medically-approved patient?” 

It’s as if Floridians don’t trust doctors to do their jobs, he said.

Conroy says he’s seen children, never mind teenagers, being prescribed more than 10 milligrams of medical cannabis per day to treat illnesses. 

In the U.S., the FDA has only approved one cannabis-based medicine, a CBD formula prescribed to treat severe childhood epilepsy caused by Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. To reduce the severity and frequency of seizures, patients as young as two-years-old can be prescribed 10 milligrams of Epidiolex per kilogram the patient weighs, per day. 

That means a 180 milligram daily dose for the average four-year-old.

Read more: UK approves 2 cannabis-based medicines

Read more: GW Pharma asks FDA to approve Epidiolex to treat a third epileptic disorder 

Epidiolex is not a THC-based medicine so the bill won’t affect it, but if a doctor thinks a patient needs medicine then they shouldn’t be limited in dosage, Conroy said. 

“We don’t do it for other medicines. Surely the test should be what the doctor approves,” he said. “It should be available in various sizes and packages depending upon that, more than anything else.” 

Top image: Florida House of Representatives applaud opening day of the Legislature March 8, 2005. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

 

michelle@mugglehead.com

@missmishelle

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