Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said a bill could be out this week that would legalize a marijuana extract that proponents believe can dramatically reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy.
The Senate bill would closely mirror a measure (HB 843) filed in the House by Gaetz’s son, Criminal Justice Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.
“It’s a bill that I think has a good chance of being considered,” the elder Gaetz said Tuesday after addressing members of the Florida Chamber of Commerce gathered at Florida State University.
“Obviously there is an uphill climb with a bill like that,” Gaetz said of the House bill, “but our understanding is that a group of Republican senators will be filing a bill like that later this week.”
The House measure would legalize forms of cannabis that contain 0.5 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol and more than 15 percent of cannabidiol, along with the resin extracted from the plant. The proposal would also make it legal to manufacture the compound.
Some Republican lawmakers have expressed concerned that support for the extract, known as Charlotte’s Web, could be confused with support for a medical marijuana proposal on the ballot in November.
Because Charlotte’s Web has such a small amount of THC, the psychoactive compound in pot, it reportedly does not get users high, unlike the marijuana that patients with severe illnesses could get with prescriptions from doctors under the proposed constitutional amendment.
The federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved the product but supporters say it reduces seizures in children and adults diagnosed with a form of epilepsy that does not respond to other treatments.
The GOP proposal likely would get better traction during the upcoming legislative session than proposals (SB 962 and HB 859) filed Monday by two Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando, to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.
Their measure is called the Cathy Jordan Cannabis Act, after a Florida woman who has lived with Lou Gehrig’s disease for the better part of 30 years.
The sponsors say their bill would legalize the drug immediately, joining 20 other states in allowing medical marijuana.
This is the fourth straight year such a measure has been filed in Florida, but Clemens said the public’s attitude toward medical pot is changing.