An article that appeared in Sunday’s Local section of the Sun-Sentinel is about an action that the Florida legislature has taken that I did not know about before.
The Florida Department of Health has been “mum” since a law was approved last spring, creating an Office of Compassionate Use. This Office is charged with working out regulations for up to five Florida plant nurseries to grow and process “Charlotte’s Web” marijuana and then make it available to eligible patients.
Paige Figi, the mother of the child for whom Charlotte’s Web was named, testified before the Florida legislature:
Her daughter Charlotte, had her first seizure at 3 months. It lasted four hours. Doctors later diagnosed her with Dravet syndrome. Racked by seizures, she was unable to eat, walk or talk.
Now, after nearly two years on “Charlotte’s Web,” she can talk, eat on her own and even ride a bike. Her story was featured in a CNN special, “Weed,” by Dr. Sanjay Gupta last year.
“We are just asking for leniency to treat these children,” Figi said. “Doctors are telling their patients to move to Colorado. We don’t have time to wait 10 years for a pill to go to market.”
Thanks to the advocacy of patients and their families, and of lobbyists, one of which is Louis Rotundo, who represents the Winter Park-based Florida Medical Cannabis Association, the Florida legislature made the decision to push through a law.
This law is in limbo now, due to the judicial consideration of regulations of the plant nurseries. The law, which was approved last spring, under which the Department of Health was expected to have rules in place by Sept. 30th, has been placed on the back burner.
A judge, last month, ordered the Florida Department of Health to rewrite its regulations for an oil made from the non-euphoric cannabis, “Charlotte’s Web,” that can be “used to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders and cancer.”
The Department of Health has kept this ruling under wraps, and the Department was given until Monday to appeal the judge’s order.
The delay occurred due to the challenging of several Florida nurseries about the requirement of one of Florida’s proposed rules: licenses would be decided by a lottery. This challenge sent the matter into court, and Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins in Tallahassee, threw out the proposed regulations.
At the beginning of the year, Florida lawmakers were already considering legislating a law to allow medical marijuana in the state.
“We want to be on the right side of history and medicine,” said Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, after a hearing in Tallahassee held by the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice. “The work begins today to take into account the pleas of people all around the state to do something and do it quickly, to make sure these individuals can gain access to the safest treatment without playing politics or hiding behind antiquated arguments.”
Well, it looks like quick access is a dream for the parents of children suffering seizures, and for patients for whom the cannabis oil will make their lives better. The rule for using a lottery to decide which nurseries will plant and grow the marijuana is holding up the relief of a growing number of patients with illnesses that could be helped with the oil.