Even though it passed out of a House committee along party lines this morning by a vote of 12-4, a measure to cap the THC in smokable medical cannabis at 10% has no legislative legs, industry insiders say.
No companion bill exists in the Senate, for one thing, nor is there a potential Senate sponsor. The Legislature also passed a bill last month, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that settles a long legal battle by lifting a previous ban and legalizing dried flower and bud for all certified patients who get a recommendation from their physicians.
Additionally, licensed growers of medical cannabis have billions of dollars invested in the ground. They’ve been cultivating high potency cannabis for nearly two years and would only have until January to sell their inventory and cultivate less potent strains.
This is a useless bill in my opinion,” Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, said during the debate on the bill at the Health and Human Services Committee.
Dispensaries are already selling 16% flower and higher concentrations in vape cups, and the concentration in edible and other forms is not capped. “So why are we going back?” Cortes asked.
Republicans in the House have long objected to smokable cannabis, but Health and Human Services Chairman Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers, said the bill in no way attempts to stop smoking.
“If we wanted to stop smoking we would have set the concentration at 1%,” Rodrigues said.
The bill attempts to find that sweet spot, the Goldilocks ratio of effectiveness without causing harm to patients, based on the available science, Rodrigues said. That amount happens to be 10%. He cited a recent Lancet article that showed high concentrations of THC consumption linked to psychosis.
But the THC cap is bad policy, said Melissa Miller of the Holistic Cannabis Community.
“It blocks access to medical cannabis, and it’s only going to increase the cost,” Miller said. “The only thing we’ve asked for is physician pricing transparency.”
The consequence would be an increase in the risk of people dying from an opioid overdose, a point echoed by several medical cannabis advocates.
“If you pass this you’ll actually encourage people to smoke more to get the same effect,” said Ron Watson, government affairs director for AltMed. “What is the difference between 9.999% and 10.01%?”
Watson said at least the legislation had the foresight to anticipate that it would take 10 months to cultivate new strains.
The bill has many good things in it, he said, including a waiver of the $75 identification card fee for military veterans, lab testing and other quality assurance measures. Veterans groups said it was wrong to tie their benefits to the potency cap.
“We can’t put this cap on the backs of veterans,” said Tonya Bailey with Buds for Vets, who take 100 milligrams a day and cannot afford to pay for the extra doses that would be required by the cap.
Not only would it open the door to the black market, Democrat Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park said, “It would start clogging up our judicial system again.”
Jones agreed there were some upsides to the bill, but couldn’t support the overall measure. “I think we are constantly eating away at what the will of the people is.”