A Florida Senate subcommittee hearing on a proposed medical marijuana bill was interrupted when an attendee started convulsing on the floor on Tuesday. While the man writhed in the throes of an epileptic seizure, a woman in the crowd reported called out, "does anybody have any CBD oil?"
Her request underscored the gravity of the terms being discussed at the hearing, which sought to determine how to interpret the state's medical marijuana bill, which voters approved in November 2016. The Senate bill that was being debated would include rules on THC levels and product types that will be available in the legal market, such as a law against smoking cannabis.
CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that's proven to effectively treat seizures and reduce their overall frequency, has been legal in Florida since 2014. Advocates argue that CBD-only laws are overly restrictive, though, preventing patients from benefiting from the hundreds of ingredients contained in whole plant cannabis. As the Sun Sentinel reported, after the man received medical assistance, his wife, who was in attendance to advocate for increased access to medical marijuana, stood up at the hearing and declared, "He can’t get the only medicine that works."
The subcommittee eventually approved the Senate bill six to one, advancing it to a floor vote. However, when Florida lawmakers do eventually reach an agreement on what the the state's medical marijuana program will look like — which will take time, as conflicting versions of the bill are being debated in the House and Senate — it'll still be a relatively restrictive law that prohibits smoking cannabis.
That's reflective of a larger problem playing out in state legislatures around the country.
Though implementing medical marijuana systems can be a complex and drawn-out process, the fact remains that stalled legislation hurts patients.
As Beth Collins, senior policy director at Americans for Safe Access, told ATTN:, "Until the laws are passed and regulations are worked out and there's actual access in each of these states, you have patients who are suffering who might be helped through cannabis." But even after the systems are enacted, when lawmakers impose restrictions on cannabis access, they're working against patients' interests, Collins said.
While CBD alone has shown incredible results, it's important to note that for some patients, other combinations of cannabinoids will work better. Access to a variety of cannabis products also matters, as not every patient responds to oils.
"We like as few restrictions as possible because it really should be between the doctor and the patient on what cannabinoids they're allowed to use and what way they administer," Collins said.