Florida Gov. signs bill to OK use of low-potency strain of marijuana to treat patients


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TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida will start allowing cancer and epilepsy patients to use a strain of low-potency marijuana next year under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott, who has been a firm opponent of medical marijuana and has tried to do mandate drug testing of state workers, said he signed the bill because as a "father and grandfather, you never want to see kids suffer."

The legislation signed by Scott passed with strong support in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature after lawmakers heard stories of children suffering from seizures who could be helped by the strain known as Charlotte's Web. It was a significant turnaround since the Legislature had refused in the past to consider bills dealing with medical marijuana.

"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," Scott said in a statement.

The new law makes it legal to dispense to certain patients strains of marijuana with low amounts of THC and high amounts of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is used to treat seizures.

Physicians will be allowed to start dispensing the marijuana strain in January. Doctors and those seeking to receive the medical marijuana will be registered into a state-run "compassionate use registry." Physicians can be charged with a crime if they dispense the drug to someone who is not an eligible patient.

Scott's decision to sign the bill comes while a campaign is underway to pass a state constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana to anyone with a "debilitating medical condition," including cancer, glaucoma, Parkinson's disease or any condition in which a physician believes the drug would outweigh any potential health risks.

Opponents contend that the wording of Amendment 2 would allow virtually anyone to get access to marijuana although supporters say that isn't true. Scott and other Republicans are opposed to the measure.

But Ben Pollara, campaign manager for the group supporting the amendment, praised Scott for signing the Charlotte's Web bill into law.

"He is joining the ranks of the millions of Floridians who agree on one indisputable fact: marijuana is medicine," Pollara said in a statement.

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