Right now, the government’s approval rating is embarrassingly low. Americans are tired of the endless partisan gridlock and bickering that’s resulted in even less progress than the country is used to. But earlier this year in Florida, politicians on both sides looked past their differences and worked together to pass the state’s Charlotte’s Web medical marijuana law.
The legislation began when State Rep. Katie Edwards (D) introduced a Florida House committee on Charlotte’s Web in early January of this year. Shortly after, she and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) filed a bill which would legalize the plant in the treatment of certain disorders and illnesses, like epilepsy and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).
Because of the specific strain’s properties, patients using Charlotte’s Web benefit from the plant’s therapeutic aspects but do not necessarily get “high” as with other forms of marijuana. Under the law, patients, including children, would be allowed to use oil made from the plant as treatment but not smoke it.
“They feel much more comfortable if they can give the child something they can administer orally or through a feeding tube,” Edwards said. “I think that’s something parents feel comfortable with.”
It’s been said that politics makes strange bedfellows, and that’s true in this case as well.
Proponents of legalizing Charlotte’s Web found an unlikely ally in Gaetz, a rising star in the Florida GOP. Gaetz is pro-capital punishment, supports the state’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, and, despite his support for Charlotte’s Web, Gaetz has said that he does not support the constitutional amendment on Florida’s ballot in November that allows for the much wider use of medical marijuana.
“As a limited government conservative, I don’t want the government standing between parents and the care they need for their children,” Gaetz said in an interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
“We just have to get past some of the fear with the word ‘marijuana,” Gaetz said, “and get to where we can appropriately tailor its application where we don’t have abuse but where we can really do for people who haven’t chosen to have disabilities.”
At an April forum on medical marijuana, Gaetz said, “There’s such hypocrisy in our drug policy. [We live in a society where] Oxycontin has medical value but marijuana doesn’t.”
Edwards and Gaetz’s committee and bill earned praise from other state legislators and supporters of medical marijuana.
David McKinney of the Florida Cannabis Action Network said,
“Rep. Gaetz showed some resolve in getting this done and took pains to ask the right questions of speakers for everyone to understand the gravity, urgency, and absurdity of the situation regarding the availability of hemp oil for treating seizures in the light of the mounting evidence.”
State Sen. Jeff Clemens (D), one of the state’s leading proponents for medical marijuana reform, applauded the committee at the first Charlotte’s Web hearing, and said it was “an inspiring day.”
After countless meetings, forums, and hearings with testimonies from patients benefiting from Charlotte’s Web, including the from the family whose daughter the drug is named after and the Stanley brothers who cultivate the strain in Colorado, the bill passed the state’s Senate and House. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law on June 16 of this year.
“As a father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer,” Scott said in a statement. “The approval of Charlotte’s Web will ensure that children in Florida who suffer from seizures and other debilitating illnesses will have the medication needed to improve their quality of life.”
The specifics of the law, including which nurseries in the state will be allowed to grow the plant, are still being ironed out.
Barring any unforeseen delays, the Charlotte’s Web law will go into effect in January 2015, and patients will finally be able to start receiving relief from the all-natural form of treatment.