Variety of Victories

The march toward sane marijuana policies in America continues onward

A medical marijuana bill passed a Florida state senate committee last week, inching it toward passage, but it isn't as exciting as it sounds.

The bill, which has already passed the Florida House of Representatives, legalizes only one strain of cannabis—Charlotte's Web. That strain, which is very low in THC and high in cannabidiol (CBD) rocketed to national recognition last summer, when CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta profiled a child in Colorado whose seizures were virtually eliminated when her parents started treating her with it.

It's nice to see Florida, a very red state, getting on the medical marijuana train, but this bill leaves many thousands of medical cannabis patients out in the cold. The token passage of such a restrictive medical bill is almost an insult. It seems more like a public relations ploy than an attempt to spread compassion and healing.

Florida legislators need to broaden this bill to include the dozens of ailments that can be treated with medical marijuana, not stifle science by allowing only one specific use. Excluding hundreds of strains from the legal medical system prevents tens of thousands of people from getting the help they need.

Bad call, Florida.

Washington, D.C., already has medical marijuana, but the nation's capital took action last week to protect anyone caught with marijuana in the city.

The City Council voted to drastically reduce penalties for possession of up to an ounce. Now, the penalty is up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It's a criminal offense. Under the proposed ordinance, which Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign, the maximum penalty would be an astoundingly low $25—less than a parking ticket in Tucson. The Council decided at the last minute to keep penalties for public smoking high—it's still a criminal offense with a $500 fine. Ouch.

I'm a fan of decriminalization, and I'm an even bigger fan of tiny little fines like $25, but I think in this day and age—especially in a major city with the highest rate of marijuana arrests in America, that we need better.

Legalize it.

The Gupta spoke again last week, when he "doubled down" on cannabis.

CNN's chief medical correspondent released another documentary on his network furthering his support for medical marijuana. He focused in part on the "entourage effect" of the constiotuents of marijuana, largely cannabinoids. Isolating cannabinoids—such as the cannabidiol found in the Charlotte's Web strain mentioned above, has only limited effect, he said, because it's really the combination of these cannabinoids that offers the most benefit.

Cnnabidiol (CBD), for example, mitigates the effects of THC, meaning that strains high in CBD actually lessen the psychoactive effects of THC. There are dozens of complex molecules in cannabis that all work together to offer healing or symptom relief. Isolating them in pharmaceuticals has limited impact on patient health. One key component is terpenes, which I have written about before. Terpenes give marijuana strains their own distinctive smells—and researchers are beginning to see that their interaction with other molecules in cannabis can amplify effects. Because of this multiplying effect, Gupta says, we need to look at marijuana as a whole in medical treatment, not just isolated constituents.

Once again, the Gupta is on the right track. He is finally coming to realize what many of us in the trenches have known for quite some time—we need medical marijuana, not just isolated chemical treatments offered by big pharma.

Go, Gupta.

So we continue to move down the path toward legalization AND on medical science. It's good to see folks on the medical side and legislative side of cannabis moving ahead together to make sure Americans get both what they want from cannabis (legal access, even for recreational use) and what they need (palliative care).

Mr. Smith approves.