Floridians Wait for Low-THC Cannabis Treatment Due to Health Department’s Failings
By William Patrick, Florida Watchdog
December 10, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Charlotte’s Web isn’t just an adorable children’s classic. It’s also the name of a compassionate medical marijuana law passed by the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature earlier this year that’s having trouble getting off the ground.
But due to administrative failings at the Florida Department of Health, thousands of patients in need of relief could be forced to wait past the Jan. 1, 2015, implementation deadline.
Named for Charlotte Figi, a 5-year-old girl who experienced fewer epileptic seizures after being treated with low-THC marijuana oil. THC is the euphoric ingredient in the pot.
“It’s unlike anything that I, in my 30 years of medical practice, have experienced,” said Dr. Alan Shackelford, a leading medical marijuana-endorsing physician based in Colorado.
Figi suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of intractable epilepsy that begins in infancy, has limited treatment options and requires constant care. After being treated with marijuana oil, her seizures dropped from a reported 300 a week to just one a week.
The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida estimates 375,000 Floridians suffer from epilepsy, many of whom are children. Other debilitating ailments eligible for treatment under Charlotte’s Web include cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and additional conditions involving chronic symptoms related to seizures or muscle spasms.
But turning over the implementation of Charlotte’s Web to the Department of Health has been anything but smooth.
An administrative law judge invalidated FDOH’s implementing rules last month, stating the department acted outside of its authority when determining who could supply the low-THC cannabis.
“In attempting to codify the above-referenced provisions the department has taken upon itself to implement policies which the Legislature has expressly rejected, or for which the Legislature chose not to grant the Department authority,” the ruling concludes.
Rather than identifying who could best provide the medical product, FDOH constructed an arbitrary lottery system based more on geography than competency. Several qualified growers filed suit along with the Florida Medical Cannabis Association.
“Assuring the dependable delivery of consistently high-quality, low-THC medicine is too important to be left to chance. Rather than minimally qualified applicants, citizens of the State of Florida, including sick and vulnerable children, deserve approval of the most qualified growers, processors and dispensers of low-THC cannabis,” the decision states.
Seen critically by some as a political workaround to simply legalizing medical marijuana, the Charlotte’s Web legislation is strikingly narrow in scope.
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