THC caps for medical marijuana would harm Florida patients | Matt Gaetz – Tallahassee.com

Congressman Matt Gaetz
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I like some caps: Welfare caps. Refugee admission caps. MAGA caps.

THC caps are a different story.

HB 1455, a misguided proposal to significantly lower the THC cap on medical cannabis, is currently making its way through the Florida Legislature. This bill would harm patients, discourage innovation and threaten liberty.

“Opioids have killed tens of thousands of Floridians. Medical marijuana has killed zero,” notes the Miami Herald. The Herald is right — but they neglect to mention that cannabis may help lessen the opioid crisis, both in Florida and in the rest of America.

Cannabis has an opioid-sparing effect, meaning medical cannabis patients with chronic pain, the most common reason adults in the United States seek medical care, may require lower doses of opioids in order to feel relief. Some studies have even indicated that medical cannabis alone can be as effective as opioids in relieving pain — all without opioids’ high risks of addiction, hepatoxicity and death.

More: Nikki Fried: Don’t restrict access to medical marijuana

More: How to get your Florida medical marijuana card in 10 easy steps | For subscribers

A cap on THC levels of medical cannabis will have a simple and immediate effect: If it’s weaker, patients will have to use more. Yet the misguided and draconian provisions of HB 1455 also place a cap on the amount of cannabis patients can receive, limiting it to 15,000 mg every 35 days.

The bill will greatly increase demand for medical cannabis, while at the same time artificially limiting supply. I am dismayed my Republican colleagues in the Legislature voted in favor of this heavy-handed, market-unfriendly approach. I am far more concerned, however, that this will jeopardize the health of Floridians, many of whom will have to seek new, stronger prescriptions or choose to break the law and buy cannabis illegally from the black market, which will be greatly enhanced by this bill.

Beyond harming medical patients and benefiting drug dealers, HB 1455 will also discourage research, innovation and drug product development. One of the breakthroughs in medical cannabis was the development of cannabis concentrates. While giving some lawmakers pause because of their high percentages of THC and/or CBD, these products allow patients to use a very small amount of cannabis compared to “traditional” methods of ingestion.

More: Florida Legislature: Democrats call Republican efforts to cap medical pot potency 'reefer madness'

More: Stop messing with medical marijuana

Furthermore, for patients with lung or heart problems, these products are a far less damaging option of cannabis consumption than rolling up dried plant matter, lighting it on fire, and inhaling the smoke — an unhealthy delivery method, to say the least. By placing an arbitrary cap on THC content, products like concentrates will be shut out of Florida’s medical cannabis markets.

There will be less incentive to research new products and new delivery methods; after all, why would manufacturers and researchers waste their time, money and work if they knew their breakthroughs would never make it to market? Florida, as it has with other industries, should encourage new technologies and new research, not actively thwart them.

Finally: Why should we force the government of Florida to be the Sunshine State’s budtender? Florida has thrived because of its light-touch regulatory framework, and the liberty its citizens enjoy has been the envy of the nation — especially during the COVID pandemic. So why should Florida try to insert itself, nanny-state style, into the medical cannabis business?

Gov. DeSantis understands the importance of keeping our state free from draconian laws, rules and regulations. Unlike New York and California, Florida is not locked down; as a result, people from all over the country have moved here for a fresh breath of liberty (to say nothing of our beaches).

We appreciate our freedom in Florida, which makes the bitter provisions of HB 1455 even harder to swallow. This bill is a step in the wrong direction for Florida. It must be defeated in the halls of our Legislature or vetoed by our governor.

Congressman Matt Gaetz represents Florida’s First Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He lives in Fort Walton Beach.

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