When SB1030, the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, passed the Florida State legislature in June 2014, Gawker Magazine published a brief story with the headline, Florida Legalizes Boring Medical Weed That Doesn’t Even Get You High. Dubbed Charlotte’s Web, the strain Gawker was referring to was created in Colorado, with the express purpose of allowing patients access to high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) without the euphoric-inducing THC. Florida parents with children suffering from epileptic seizures pushed to have the strain legalized in Florida. Even Governor Rick Scott signed off on Charlotte’s Web.
“I’ve met several families with young children who were suffering from as many as 100 seizures per day … Charlotte’s Web shows great promise to provide their kids with relief,” said Florida State Senator Rob Bradley (R, Orange Park), who drafted the legislation. “As the father of three children myself, how could I in good conscience refuse to help these families? Any law that defines these families as criminals is a law that defies common sense. The law needed to be changed, and we changed it.”
The bill includes a budget for clinical research on the effects of Charlotte’s Web. However, the University of Florida, in not wanting to risk its $300 million in federal grant funding, elected not to have anything to do with researching Charlotte’s Web (as did many other prominent research facilities around the country), which remains illegal under federal drug laws. This Catch-22 paradox is, for the most part, the reason there’s little medically accepted research on the subject of Charlotte’s Web.
Last month, Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins rejected a challenge to a proposed rule setting up the medical marijuana industry in Florida, opening a year-long gridlock keeping Charlotte’s Web from the public.
And the joint was rolling.
Until two weeks ago. On June 8, Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clark (District 3) proposed an emergency six-month moratorium on the distribution of Charlotte’s Web. The emergency part effectively blocked any public comment.
“It is sad and really disappointing that the council voted on this measure without giving the people who would be most impacted by their decision a chance to voice their concerns,” said Ryan Wiggins, spokesperson for the Moseley Family’s nonprofit Realm of Caring. “To my knowledge, no other city in the state has passed any similar measure or has reacted this way. Every municipality in the state has had a year to plan for this and figure out zoning. To wait until the last minute as if this issue has only just now been sprung on them isn’t fair to the families who are desperately waiting on relief for their children.”
Council’s paranoia runneth over. The apparent need for the emergency measure stems from a zoning issue. With a lack of marijuana laws, the city won’t know where to allow the sale of what amounts to a tube of toothpaste. The six-month moratorium will fall into the lap of land use and zoning.
Shortly after the Council’s unanimous decision, Folio Weekly reached out to all Councilmembers in an email. (Read the responses from those who chose to reply in the graphic that accompanies this article).
New legislation creates new challenges to overcome and it may take time for the city to fully understand and implement a law. However, the state passed SB1030 more than a year ago. Why was the law overlooked?
Former Jacksonville City Council candidate Lisa King phoned Melissa Ross’ First Coast Connect on Monday, June 15, calling the Council’s decision “unconscionable.” King told Ross, “I’m most disappointed that the City Council has waited till the zero hour to do anything and then has done a knee-jerk reaction, when they could have been working on this for the last year, so that if one of these dispensaries was located in our part of the state, we would know exactly where it could or couldn’t go.”
Folio Weekly isn’t advocating that Charlotte’s Web is a cure-all — especially in the face of medical science indicating that the whole plant, with THC, is a more optimal health product, but when city councilmembers call emergency legislation that actively seeks to block public comment (especially when it concerns a law has been on the state books for one year), it begs the question: special interest or incompetence? Either way, the baggie doesn’t quite weigh up to snuff.
“The State tightly controls the growth and distribution of low-THC cannabis to ensure that only entities and individuals with a track record of financial stability and ethical conduct are involved,” said Sen. Bradley. “The law that we ultimately passed contains tight regulations on the growth and distribution of low-THC cannabis to suffering families. The substance at issue is not smokable and it does not make you high. I’m confident that after the city completes its review of the law, the city will be comfortable with allowing its suffering residents to have unfettered access to Charlotte’s Web.”