Florida Lawmakers Considering Limit on THC in Smokable Medical Marijuana

Critics of the proposal to cap THC in smokable medical cannabis say it will just force patients to buy and smoke more marijuana.
Florida Lawmakers Considering Limit on THC in Smokable Medical Marijuana
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On March 21, smokable medical cannabis products finally became available in Florida dispensaries. But already, House lawmakers are proposing legislation to limit THC levels in those products. It’s a move that critics say undermines the recent repeal of the ban on smokable medical marijuana. THC limits, they argue, will simply force medical cannabis patients to purchase and smoke more cannabis.

Florida House Committee Chair Proposes 10 Percent THC Cap for Flower

On Wednesday, the Florida House will take up discussion of a bill  proposed by Health & Human Services Chair Ray Rodrigues that would limit THC levels in both smokable and ingestible medical cannabis products. The bill would also erect barriers for sick children, making it more difficult for minors to obtain full-strength medical cannabis products. Another provision would give the Florida Dept. of Health authority to fast-track any new rules addressing the state’s medical marijuana program.

The specific caps would limit THC in smokable products to a level far below the industry standard for flower. A 10 percent THC cap would likely require cultivators to breed new, less potent strains. The proposed limits for edibles would be higher. A 35-day supply of medical cannabis edibles, for example, would have a 7,000 mg total cap. 200 mg per day is more than most patients—but not all—would require.

Critics Say THC Limits Will Cause More Spending and More Smoking

Two weeks ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the legislature’s repeal of the ban on smokable medical marijuana into law. Gov. DeSantis had himself pushed for the repeal of the smoking ban. But Rodrigues, who is a Republican, cited studies linking high-potency cannabis to psychosis and schizophrenia, as well as studies suggesting cannabis produces deleterious effects on developing brains, as reasons for his proposal.

Yet studies on cannabis use and mental illness are far from conclusive. Often, researchers publicize preliminary results that have not been vetted or peer-reviewed. But since such studies fit a popular anti-legalization narrative, lawmakers often neglect taking a closer look at their actual findings.

But whether or not Rep. Rodrigues’ concerns are well-founded, critics say a cap on THC won’t produce the desired effect. Ben Pollara, a legalization advocate and critic of the proposal, called it “a tax on patients.”

The 10 percent limit, Pollara said Tuesday, will force patients to pay more “to buy more marijuana to achieve the same effect as if the caps were not in place.”

Additionally, patients seeking to achieve the same effect with lower-potency flower will have to smoke more, negating one of the declared objectives of the bill. If patients can’t afford to purchase more flower, the cap has the same effect as a ban.

Bill Would Make It Harder for Minors to Obtain Medical Cannabis Treatments

Another provision of Rodrigues’ proposal would expand medical marijuana requirement for minors. Currently, Florida minors need approval from two doctors to obtain medical cannabis treatments. If those treatments call for smokable products, the second recommending physician must hold a medical board certification.

Rodrigues’ proposal would increase those requirements. A second approval from a board-certified pediatrician would be a requirement for all forms of medical cannabis, from tinctures and oils to flower. If the proposal becomes law, caregivers of children with qualifying conditions would have trouble accessing anything by low-THC cannabis.

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