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POINT: Legislature's Careful Approach to Medical Marijuana Is Right

April 28, 2017 - 8:00am

Medical marijuana seems to be the topic du jour as the Legislature is getting ready for its final week of session.

Much is being written by journalists about how the Legislature isn’t listening to the people of Florida, the 71 percent who voted for the amendment.

Even the New York Times editorial board has weighed in, as if they know something about what’s really going on here.  They don’t, they just have a liberal ideology to espouse and the ink to print it.

No matter. No one in the Legislature is listening to them.

I’ve been involved on behalf of Smart Justice for the last four years on medical marijuana.

Suffice it to say, I have not been a proponent of the Charlotte’s Web legislation and the constitutional amendment.

Ultimately, both of those passed and accordingly, Smart Justice has accepted the results -- without any whining -- and proceeded to then make sure that the law and the implementation was sound, logical and fair.

Today, HB 1397 by House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues will be heard, and almost everyone has lambasted the legislation as being too strict.
Smart Justice has supported this bill because it reflects our belief that this is an important issue of significant impact.

Having said that, Sen. Rob Bradley’s SB 406 is also an excellent work product and the good news is that together, these two men will each compromise on issues to ensure that a bill is passed and sent to the governor.

I’ve listened to the constant carping of proponents that they voted for an amendment that allowed smoking of pot.

No, you didn’t.

As Rep. Jason Brodeur so eloquently said last week, the word smoking is nowhere in the amendment language.

John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times had a good column yesterday about the inconsistency of legislators regarding the whiskies and Wheaties bill and how they’ll vote on the med pot bill. The difference is that liquor isn’t a medicine prescribed by physicians, whereas medical marijuana is going to be recommended.

We all know that, unfortunately, the buggy got in front of the horse on medical pot because there is absolutely NO scientific evidence by American researchers on any medicinal value of cannabis.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, and for many of the proponents, that’s all they need to convince them that cannabis has healing powers.

Florida legislators have a moral obligation to be strict with medical marijuana exactly because there is no science yet.

We can blame the feds -- and they deserve it, which is why two former state legislators who are now congressmen, one a Dem and the other a Repub, have filed a bill to make marijuana a Class II drug instead of a Class I drug -- and yes, the time to do so is now.

Thankfully, Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jackie Toledo have sponsored legislation that will fund medical marijuana research at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, something that Smart Justice has advocated for the last three years.

So, when legislative leaders promised to do regulation and implementation of medical marijuana better than any other state, well, they’re demonstrating that Florida will be the leader among all the states to do this in the right fashion.

Almost every proponent chastised the Legislature for making tough requirements, but Florida will be better for this thoughtful regulation than anywhere else.

While I can recite it in my sleep that no one has allegedly ever overdosed on marijuana, what the proponents never say in their threading of the needle is that people die every day from smoking pot.

On Wednesday, NBC News announced that for the first time in history, accident fatalities from drugs -- 43 percent -- outnumbered traffic deaths from alcohol -- 37 percent. This, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Google it.  The numbers don’t lie.

That’s why how medical marijuana is implemented is so very important.

As of April 24, there were 734 doctors who’ve taken the exam that enables them to see patients, and in testimony earlier this week the Legislature was told that there were about 8,000 patients.

Yet, to hear proponents tell it, they can’t get access to medical marijuana.

Well, if you follow the rules, you can.  Granted, there is a current 90-day waiting period, but that is probably going to be lessened to maybe 30-60 days in the eventual compromise.

Why should anyone have to wait?  You don’t.

If your doctor is already on the list to recommend medical marijuana, then you don’t have to wait at all, though you will have to get a confirming second opinion.

The reason for the waiting period and the cross-check is to guarantee that the “pill mill” scourge doesn’t happen again.

It will, inevitably, because human nature is to be greedy and some doctors will recommend at will so that they can make a lot of money.  

The Legislature has an obligation to make sure this doesn’t happen with medical pot, and the restrictions they’re proposing are thus reasonable and sound.

Until the patient registry expands greatly, the concept that the current seven growers can’t meet demand is simply theoretical.
At the rate of about 2,000 new patients per month, it will take years before there is a real access problem.  Even if you don’t live near a dispensary, you can have the medical pot delivered to you.

The cost is too high?  As both demand and supply grow, the cost will come down if for no other reason than economies of scale.  It’s just like flat screen televisions or any consumer product.  Initially, the cost is high until economies of scale and competition bring down the price.
Competition?  Sure, why not.  The only question is when to enlist new growers.

Smart Justice feels that new growers should come later down the road, except that black farmers should be entitled to start now, once they complete the application process and are approved.

And on that note, previous bidders should be first in line for any licenses after the black farmers, so long as they meet all the requirements.

Smoking of pot?  Only for the terminally ill.  No medical journal in America has anything to say about the positive health consequences of smoking, but if you're terminally ill, the issue is moot.

Vaping and probably edibles will be allowed in the final compromise.

In the final analysis, the Legislature will do the right thing and bring this in for a landing. But it won’t be because of all the whining, it’s because the Legislature has the responsibility under the amendment as passed to implement it, and they will.

Amendment 2 advocates should have learned a lesson from the experience of Amendment 1 advocates. If you force something down the throats of the Legislature through a Constitutional Amendment process, don’t be surprised if legislators have their own ideas on how to implement it.

Or devise an amendment that’s self-executing and you won’t have to worry about the Legislature.

Smart Justice appreciates all the hard work the Legislature has done to bring this in for a landing, and we’re confident that the final work product will be reflective of what the legislative leadership promised:  that Florida would do it right!

Barney Bishop III is the president & CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, a center-right criminal justice reform organization that is law enforcement-centric.  Sound policy that maintains public safety as Job #1 and which seeks to help individuals with behavioral healthcare issues will lead to less recidivism and crime. You can email Barney at


What do you mean no research?

I guess the facts from the National Institute of Health -> National Cancer Institute is not a credible organization? Give me a BREAK. This shows that you choose what is Fact or Faction based on your personal BIAS.

Have any preclinical (laboratory or animal) studies been conducted using Cannabis or cannabinoids? Preclinical studies of cannabinoids have investigated the following: Antitumor activity Studies in mice and rats have shown that cannabinoids may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may be able to kill cancer cells while protecting normal cells. A study in mice showed that cannabinoids may protect against inflammation of the colon and may have potential in reducing the risk of colon cancer, and possibly in its treatment. A laboratory study of delta-9-THC in hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cells showed that it damaged or killed the cancer cells. The same study of delta-9-THC in mouse models of liver cancer showed that it had antitumor effects. Delta-9-THC has been shown to cause these effects by acting on molecules that may also be found in non-small cell lung cancer cells and breast cancer cells. A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells. Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors. A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in human glioma cells showed that when given along with chemotherapy, CBD may make chemotherapy more effective and increase cancer cell death without harming normal cells. Studies in mouse models of cancer showed that CBD together with delta-9-THC may make chemotherapy such as temozolomide more effective. Stimulating appetite Many animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids stimulate appetite and can increase food intake. Pain relief Cannabinoid receptors (molecules that bind cannabinoids) have been studied in the brain, spinal cord, and nerve endings throughout the body of animals to understand their roles in pain relief. Cannabinoids have been studied for anti-inflammatory effects that may play a role in pain relief. Animal studies have shown that cannabinoids may prevent nerve problems (pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, and muscle weakness) caused by some types of chemotherapy. Nausea and vomiting Cannabinoid receptors found in brain cells may have a role in controlling nausea and vomiting. Animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC and other cannabinoids may act on cannabinoid receptors to prevent vomiting caused by certain types of chemotherapy. Anxiety and sleep Cannabinoid receptors found in the brain and other parts of the nervous system may be involved in controlling mood and anxiety. Anti-anxiety effects of cannabidiol (CBD) have been shown in several animal models.

Barney is a cold war era anti drug warrior. His "think tank" is "law enforcement centric." That pretty much sums it up. This is a pseudo intellectual piece aimed at scaring people into thinking the Lords of Tallahassee have some infinite wisdom the rest of us don't possess. There is no science? After that blatant mis statement the rest of the article becomes even more laughable.

Have to believe that one of Barney's ancestors is Harry Anslinger, architect of most of this stupidity. Want to know what is really going on, follow the money. It is AWAYS the money. What a disgrace.

Poor Barney. He really is a dinosaur.

The corruption reach way down where Barney lives. The system that Senator Bradley created in 2014 continues today. How much money have fall on the floor next to you when meeting Fay and Sembler, if it the same as Rodrigues and Bardley you are doing well and living large. Like you the politicians have no desire to serve the qualified patients in Florida. I's about power and money pay to play. What gives them the right to tell me they know more than me and my doctor. Why are the politicians afraid to give control ro local governments, those that know their constituents best? Why are they afraid to give our local elected officials control of the who, what, where and how amendment 2 should be implemented. Money thats why they are protecting those that have paid for them both over and under the table. We the People are sick of the political corruption! Lock them up, Lock them up, Lock them up

Barney, your past is catching up with you. You were then, and now, a useless mouthpiece for whatever is against what the voters want. Perhaps we need you to quietly remain 'retired' so we all may ignore whatever screwy thoughts are in your mindless head! Your pompous writing and thoughts are no longer catching the voters' interests and you have lost your ability to completely bs most of us. Barney to bed, it's after 5PM!

When someone has chronic pain or going through chemo and overwhelming prefer cannabis over prescription meds there is no need for evidence. I can bet you my life that cannabis is less harmful to my body than chemo or living off of opioids everyday. I'm sure there is evidence on how people that use fentanyl are Likely to get addicted if they use it for an extended period of time. And yet we have wait 90 days for a doctor to recommend it. But I can leave with a prescription of a 30 day supply oxy. I totally expect the state to lock up and capped the growers to a minimum. It's the easiest way for them to regulate, tax, and control the market.

Ray has the smell of hidden money behind his Public Professional Politician stance.... I can smell it from HERE!

You are SO tainted and misinformed or ignorant it is beyond comprehension. Next time try keeping and open mind and educating yourself before writing an informed piece that is not full of holes. You really think a majority of the voters did not think they would be able to smoke, eat or vape as part of what they voted on? And the whole 90 day thing cannot be rationally explained by any measure when I can walk into a docs office and walk out with a script for opiate.

Mr, "Anonymous" = Fearful WIMP: Opiates are pretty much only prescribed by "Pain Management Doctors"... My PCP (and most family Doctors) will NOT prescribe Opiates! But then again you address this to "You" -- who the hell is "You"? Crawl back into your "Anonymous" nutless hole...

Here the namesakes go again... My PCP prescribes Opiates, my neighbor's doctor will prescribe them. My surgeon prescribed them to me post-surgery this year. In a survey of my entire office everyone's doctor, but one prescribes Opiates Idiot!

As was pointed out by one of the legislators (I don't recall who), who is also a physician, not everyone's doctor is allowed to write recommendations. My son's doctor is a Tenet physician and they are not yet allowed to take the course. Many Florida doctors who are affiliated with hospitals that receive Federal funding are not allowed to recommend. That means that these patients need to find another physician, and that is why we had a problem with the 90 day wait. Also, the latest house bill, which has removed the 90 day wait and allows vaping and edibles, will also make it very unlikely that any physician will be willing to write recommendations due to the heavy restrictions and oversight it puts on doctors.

Smoking a joint of 35% THC Marijuana a day keeps the doctor away, isn't that the way it's suppose to be? The last thing anyone wants is having to go to the doctor!

Barney, You should get your facts straight before writing erroneous information. "I’ve listened to the constant carping of proponents that they voted for an amendment that allowed smoking of pot. No, you didn’t. As Rep. Jason Brodeur so eloquently said last week, the word smoking is nowhere in the amendment language." Yes smoking is in the amendment language. From the text of amendment 2: "(6)Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place." It is clear from the plain language of the constitution that smoking of medical marijuana in private was expected by the voters and authorized by the amendment.

Thank you! That's exactly what I was going to say! In fact, the amendment does not mention ANY routes of administration, aside from banning smoking in public, so I guess, Barney, that we all voted for legal medical cannabis without intending it to actually be administered in any way. Obviously, when 6+ million Floridians voted yes, they assumed routes of administration would be between the patient and the physician, not decided by legislators.

Barney Bishop... has been doing nothing but whining since day 1. A bought and paid for mouthpiece. Nothing less than a full implementation of A2 is acceptable. Lawmakers won't do that and they will use taxpayers money to fight implementation. Vote the bums out

New elections in 2 yrs and we'll see how voters think of your ignoring their demands............................... And Bishop with the backing of such scum as the Semblers just lie. Fact is pot is about the safest medicine with no known poisonings, unlike things like water................ We 70% are keeping track of who votes.

I love the repeated, "no medicinal value". For the uneducated: Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants Abstract Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH.sub.3, and COCH.sub.3. ##STR1## Inventors: Hampson; Aidan J. (Irvine, CA), Axelrod; Julius (Rockville, MD), Grimaldi; Maurizio (Bethesda, MD) Assignee: The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services (Washington, DC) Family ID: 26767641 Appl. No.: 09/674,028 Filed: February 2, 2001 PCT Filed: April 21, 1999 PCT No.: PCT/US99/08769 PCT Pub. No.: WO99/53917 PCT Pub. Date: October 28, 1999

Barney should get his facts straight before wtiting erroneously. The language in the amendment dies address smoking. From the text of amendment 2: "(6)Nothing in this section shall require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place." It is clear that smoking was expected by the voters and that the amendment authorizes it.

what a joke

Hello Mel And Betty Semblers Mouthpiece. If the Florida health department, House and Senate wants to Control who can use Cannabis and not leave it up to the individual and their doctor the only thing I can say is they should be held liable for every needless death in the state of Florida. The following is the reason I have made such a strong statement. From the CDC, rate of death involving natural and semi synthetic opioid pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids, other than methadone (e.g., fentanyl) increased 9%, 26%, and 80%, respectively. The sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, other than methadone, in 2014 coincided with law enforcement reports of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid; however, illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data. These findings indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is worsening. There is a need for continued action to prevent opioid abuse, dependence, and death. FACTS not FICTION: overdose deaths 2013 state of Florida, 2,474. Overdose deaths 2014 State of Florida 2,634 increase of 160 deaths. NOTE: CDC does not show yet OD Deaths for 2015 to present. I am sure the number is increasing. CDC new recommendations released 2016 include the statement to Doctors and Pain Management " We recommend not to test for delta 9 THC as there is no proof that it causes adverse side effects when used with any prescription drug. “Clinicians should not dismiss patients from care based on a urine drug test result because this could constitute patient abandonment and could have adverse consequences for patient safety, potentially including the patient obtaining opioids from alternative sources and the clinician missing opportunities to facilitate treatment for substance use disorder.” Sadly few Doctors or Pain management clinics are following these guidelines. The Doctors I have talked to did not even know about the New recommendations. Newsweek:2014 “America has a major problem with prescription pain medications like Vicodin and OxyContin. Overdose deaths from these pharmaceutical opioids have approximately tripled since 1991, and every day 46 people die of such overdoses in the United States. However, in the 13 states that passed laws allowing for the use of medical marijuana between 1999 and 2010, 25 percent fewer people die from opioid overdoses annually. “The difference is quite striking,” said study co-author Colleen Barry, a health policy researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The shift showed up quite quickly and become visible the year after medical marijuana was accepted in each state, she told Newsweek.” New York Times;2016 “ U.S. states that have legalized cannabis use for medical purposes have seen a significant decline in the number of prescription drugs issued through the Medicare program, according to a new study by University of Georgia researchers. The study, led by W. David Bradford and published in the journal Health Affairs, examined 87 million prescribed drugs filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 through 2013. Savings from the lower number of prescriptions were estimated to be $165.2 million in 2013, when 17 states and the District of Columbia had medical marijuana laws implemented. The researchers state that if medicinal marijuana was legal in all 50 states, savings to Medicare would be about $468 million. But they also acknowledge that patients may not benefit from those savings if they pay for medical marijuana out of pocket, noting insurance doesn’t cover it. The study analysis focused on drugs that treat conditions for which medical marijuana could be suggested as an alternative treatment method–such as depression, anxiety, nausea, chronic pain, sleep disorders, glaucoma, spasticity and more. With the exception of glaucoma and spasticity (a muscle control disorder), all other conditions listed correlated with fewer prescriptions in states with legalized medical marijuana. In states where medical marijuana had not been legalized, the same decline was not observed. Overall, glaucoma cases show the least proven benefit from cannabis use, which may correlate with the minimal decline noted in the study. Cannabis use can relieves eye pressure in glaucoma patients by about 25 percent, but the effects only last for about an hour – making the drug not the ideal option for patients. On the opposite side, pain showed the strongest medical evidence recommending marijuana use, according to the researchers, which in turn was the condition that had the greatest effect on prescriptions for painkillers. More than 1,800 fewer daily doses of painkillers were prescribed, on average, per year in states with legal medical marijuana compared to states where it is illegal”. Some Doctors say; "marijuana can cause disturbed thoughts and worsen psychotic symptoms in schizophrenics." Then why is there such a decrease in the Prescribed amount of the following DRUGS in states where medical marijuana is legal. (in daily doses) psychosis; 519, anxiety; 562 and depression; 265. Source, Bradford and Bradford Health Affairs July 2016. University of Georgia Researchers. Then there is the argument; The children will get the edibles "Children Poisoned but not by Marijuana Edibles" Analyzed data from 62,254 calls made in 2013 and 2014 to U.S. poison control centers reporting unintentional exposures to laundry or dishwasher detergent among children younger than 6. Calls increased for all types of detergent exposures, but the rise was greatest for the highly-concentrated laundry detergent pods (17 percent); followed by dishwasher detergent packets (14 percent). Laundry pods are the most hazardous, particularly when the packets contain liquid detergent rather than granules. The harms to children from laundry pod ingestion included: ⦁ 17 cases of coma ⦁ 6 cases of respiratory arrest ⦁ 4 cases of pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) ⦁ 2 cases of cardiac arrest The harms to children from Marijuana Edibles ingestion: ; 0 cases of coma ; 0 cases of respiratory arrest ; 0 cases of pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) : 0 cases of cardiac arrest I REST MY CASE

Bless you also HT. It seems that old Barney is either uninformed or deliberately clouding the waters.

Excellent Op-ed. I agree with most points save one: that the health benefits of cannabis are purely anecdotal. Actually, there are over 378 clinical trials currently underway throughout the US on medical marijuana and its potential effects on treating chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV and several other applications (see In fact, 32 of these are already occurring in FL. I would also add that while the state legislature attempts to create a balanced approach to managing medical cannabis in Florida, there are several excellent policy examples already on the books in Canada (since 2001) and Israel (since 1992) and more recently, Illinois and Michigan. These "learnings" could provide meaningful insights and further enhance Florida's own policies (perhaps in the next legislative session). All my best, LMR

Let's not forget Marinol and U.S. Patent 6630507 The U.S. Patent Office issued patent #6630507 to the U.S.Health and Human Services filed on 2/2/2001. The patent lists the use of certain cannabinoids found within the cannabis sativa plant as useful in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and HIV dementia. Since cannabis sativa (marijuana) contains compounds recognized and endorsed by an agency of the U.S. government- Why is it that marijuana remains on the Federal Schedule One list of drugs? The issuance of patent #6630507 is a direct contradiction of the governments own definition for classification of a Schedule 1 drug.

FYI Barney. If you build nonsensical restrictions on Medical Marijuana. You've simply help the black market prosper. As Trump says. "Believe me." About the New York Times article you said; "No matter. No one in the Legislature is listening to them." Well. No one in the legislature is listening to 74% of Floridians who voted for the law. I have been to the public meetings. Have you? Nor are legislators listening to scientists in Israel for instance. Or thousands of others. They only listen to the faint echos the prohibitionist past. Those echos are getting more faint. "Believe me." About your fellow residents of the Florida you said: "I’ve listened to the constant carping of proponents...." When feedback from citizens is now "carping", the problem is you not them. Your opinion is solidified like a bleached piece of coral Barney. Whats the point in talking to you? You also said: "Suffice it to say, I have not been a proponent of the Charlotte’s Web legislation..." Clearly. You also never spent time with the children who it has helped. Nor their parents. "Believe me." I could go on. I've dealt with people like you. You won't change. You're to invested. You like to control moral fabric as you see it. Florida will eventually move towards compassionate. People like you move on. We will move further away from narcissistic regulations on voters intentions. "Believe me."

Yes Barney. I know there are a couple typos in that response. I wanted to give you some low hanging froot to critisize. I've seen your threads before.

70% of the people voted for something and the legislators think they are smarter... just wait for the next election and see what happens...

Delaying tactics by the legislature. They need to figure out how federal funding will be impacted AND if their decision will cost them their position in Tallahassee.


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