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Let's Explore Cannabidiol but Reject Dangerous Medical Marijuana Amendment

February 8, 2014 - 6:00pm

This November voters will have the opportunity to decide whether to allow so-called medical marijuana in Florida.

As a parent, the amendment forces me to ask myself: Would I want my daughter, when she becomes a teenager, smoking marijuana to alleviate premenstrual cramps, anxiety from school exams or difficulty concentrating during class? The answer is no, and I'll tell you why.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, any physician licensed in Florida could sign a physician certification stating that, in his or her professional opinion, my teenage daughter suffers from a condition for which the physician believes that the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for the patient. This physician certification is based upon the physician's professional opinion.

Most people don't realize that the amendment isn't limited to medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine. As a result, a chiropractor, optometrist, physician assistant or psychiatrist could certify marijuana use for patients.

As a parent, I am performing my due diligence in reviewing the available scientific research on marijuana. What I am finding is that the future of medical marijuana lies in its individual components that can be isolated in a nonsmokable form like an oil, pill or cream. I am also finding that there is an expedited need for research and development of cannabis-based derivatives like Cannabidiol or CBD. It's important to distinguish THC, the psychotropic derivative of the cannabis plant that causes a "high," from CBD.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved clinical trials for the use of CBD in treating severe forms of childhood epilepsy that don't respond to anti-epileptic drugs. I have heard from countless parents who have exhausted every available treatment, medication and even surgery to stop their child's seizures. We are only beginning to realize the vast potential for cannabis-derived therapies, but we must do it right.

As a policymaker, I am not going to stand in the way of advancements in science and medicine while patients needlessly suffer. I want patients to have access to the safest and most effective forms of cannabis-derived therapies administered by a medical doctor or osteopathic physician who can further the research and development of new therapies by monitoring their efficacy.

The proposed constitutional amendment gives patients false hope in a form of marijuana that is neither safe nor effective, especially for pediatric and adolescent patients. Nature's pharmacy has provided us with a plant whose compounds should be utilized in the safest, most effective way. It's time for us to start thinking about cannabis as we would any other medicine and stop burying our heads in the sand.

Republican Jimmie Smith, whose District 34 office is in Lecanto, is deputy whip in the Florida House. He is serving his second term. Read his profile on the website.

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