Florida Senators OK cannabis THC limits

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pot plants
Cannabis plants from a marijuana grow house. By Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (May 2011).

By Dara Kam ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — A key Senate committee Tuesday signed off on a bill that would impose limits on the amounts of euphoria-inducing THC in pot products if voters pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow recreational marijuana.

Lawmakers are considering pot potency limits as the Florida Supreme Court weighs whether the proposed amendment meets legal requirements to go on the November ballot.

The Senate Health Policy Committee approved the bill (SB 7050), which would cap THC in smokable marijuana at 30 percent; impose caps of 60 percent on other products, including pre-filled vape cartridges for inhalation; and limit edibles to 15 milligrams of THC for each “single serving portion,” with a total cap of 200 mg of THC. Under changes adopted by the committee, edibles could have a potency variance of up to 15 percent.

Committee Chairwoman Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, said the bill is aimed at beginning to create a separate regulatory structure for recreational marijuana, should the amendment be placed on the ballot and be approved. The proposed potency restrictions would only apply to products being sold for recreational use, not medical marijuana.

“This is setting the stage and recognizing that should the amendment pass … that we will continue to have a medical-marijuana market and we will have a personal-use (recreational) market,” Burton said before the Republican-controlled committee approved the bill in a 7-3 vote along party lines.

The House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee last week approved a similar measure (HB 1269) that does not contain the potency variance for edibles.

Critics of the proposed caps have argued that the restrictions are premature.

“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse and putting this in front of the ballot initiative that may or may not pass,” Sen. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, said before voting against the measure Tuesday.

The state’s medical marijuana operators and other cannabis proponents also oppose the caps.

Trulieve, the state’s largest medical marijuana operator, has contributed more than $40 million to the Smart & Safe Florida political committee seeking to put the recreational-use proposal before voters. The marijuana company has given all but $124.58 of the money collected by the committee since the initiative’s launch in 2022.

The ballot proposal, in part, would authorize “adult personal use of marijuana” for adults ages 21 and older and permit the state’s currently licensed medical-marijuana operators “and other state licensed entities” to participate in the recreational-pot industry.

The proposed caps could result in a major disparity in potency levels between the recreational and medicinal pot programs.

The vast majority of smokable flower products currently sold by Florida’s medical marijuana operators have less than 30 percent THC, which would largely be in line with the proposed cap for recreational products.

But other products — including vape cartridges, for inhaling — currently for sale have potency levels far higher than the 60 percent cap included in the legislative plans.

More than 870,000 patients are registered for the state’s medical-use program, which launched after voters approved a 2016 constitutional amendment broadly authorizing medical marijuana. Patients’ costs for the program can be expensive. Eligible patients must pay the Department of Health $75 per year for a medical marijuana identification card, and they also have to pay doctors up to $400 annually to certify that they are eligible for cannabis treatment.

Burton said Tuesday that lawmakers would have to lay out a more robust regulatory framework for a recreational pot program if the constitutional amendment passes.

“We will come back, and we will have a starting place at least to begin regulation,” she told reporters after the meeting. “We have an idea today what is available in the medical marijuana market. So we have a starting point that keeps recreational marijuana at lower potency and equal or lower potency to what is currently available in medical marijuana.”

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