Pensacola, Florida
Friday October 31st 2014

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Outtakes—Gaetz to the Rescue

I appreciate when a politician breaks ranks and looks past the surface of an issue to take a stand that his party might not initially approve of. We live in an age of sound bites and tweets that offer little room for in depth analysis or thoughtful reflection. Most would rather avoid the fight.

State Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) has surprised me with his support for a bill that will legalize the type of medical marijuana known as Charlotte’s Web.

He is willing to take the political risk to help parents like Peyton and Holley Moseley whose daughter RayAnn deals with hundreds of epileptic seizures a week. Charlotte’s Web has
helped others with a similar condition, including Charlotte Figi for whom the strain of cannabis was named.

Figi was having 300 seizures a week and had lost had the ability to walk, talk and eat until the oil from the Charlotte’s Web was added to her food. Today she is a thriving little girl.
The Moseleys want the same for their daughter. Gaetz is trying to find sponsors for the bill during this legislative session.

Charlotte’s Web is different from other strains of marijuana. It has been successfully crossbred so that it’s low in THC, the compound that gives the user a high. The plant is instead high in CBD, which has medicinal properties but no psychoactivity.  Scientists believe the CBD is what quiets the excessive electrical and chemical activity in the brain that causes seizures.

Clouding the political landscape is the ballot initiative for medical marijuana that the Florida Supreme Court approved to be placed on the ballot next November. The Moseleys and others who support Charlotte’s Web fear that lawmakers will turn away from the Gaetz-backed bill because their constituents might confuse the two.

The ballot initiative, if passed, would allow any marijuana to be prescribed.  Lawmakers living in conservative districts will avoid it more than a photo op with Bill Clinton. If they believe that voters in their district can’t distinguish the House bill from the ballot initiative, then the Charlotte’s Web bill will have a difficult time passing both the Florida House and Senate and getting signed by Gov. Rick Scott, who also faces re-election.

The difference maker could be Matt Gaetz, who chairs the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. He has the legislative experience and political acumen to communicate why the Charlotte’s Web bill is a health issue, not a drug issue.

If anyone can get this bill passed, it’s Matt Gaetz.