TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Peyton and Holley Moseley are torn between desperately wanting to help control their adopted daughter RayAnn's seizures and risking losing her if they do.
The 11-year-old has up to 300 seizures a week and her parents want to use a low-THC strain of marijuana to help treat them, but since it's illegal in Florida, they fear the state could take her from them if they do use it. So now they're trying to persuade lawmakers to legalize the drug that's being used to treat children in Colorado.
"She's already been removed from one set of parents that she knew to be her parents. There's no way that we would consider doing something like that to her again," Holley Moseley said. "We're going to fight for her no matter what, from the beginning to making her ours to now seeing she gets the treatment that she needs."
After hearing their story and those of other parents whose children suffer from severe epilepsy, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved a bill Wednesday that would allow medical use of a marijuana strain called "Charlotte's Web." The strain has low levels of THC, which makes people high, and normal levels of CBD, which is used to treat seizures. It marks the first time a Florida legislative committee has approved any form of medical marijuana.
"This is an historic moment," said Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, the committee chairman and the bill's sponsor. "People here in Tallahassee have realized that we can't just have a bumper sticker approach to marijuana where you're either for it or against it. Not all marijuana's created equally and this strain of marijuana can do a lot of good and has a low likelihood of abuse."
The Moseleys told the committee that they traveled to Colorado and met with the people that grow the strain of marijuana and talked to dozens of parents that have used it to treat their children's seizures.
"The results were overwhelming," Peyton Moseley said. "Eighty-five percent of the patients that try this strain have between a 50 and 100 percent reduction in seizures. This is coming straight from the horse's mouth. This is coming straight from the patients' parents. These kids can walk now. These kids can talk now. Kids are saying 'I love you' to their parents for the first time."
The bill (HB 843) sets conditions on the possession and use of the marijuana. It will have to contain less than 0.8 percent THC. On average, marijuana has about 15 percent THC, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
It also can't be smoked. In Colorado, the strain is converted into an oil before children are treated with it. Use of it will also require a doctor's approval.
Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell of Port St. Lucie was the only member to vote against it, noting that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved its use.
"It is a drug. We have a process through the FDA to deal with it," she said. "If you really want to solve a problem and just not legalize marijuana, then you need to do it appropriately."
Several lawmakers spoke passionately for the bill, including Rep. Charles Hood who drew applause from the audience.
"Every 19 minutes there's somebody in this country who dies of a drug overdose. Do you know how many people have died of a drug overdose of cannabis? Zero," said Hood, R-Daytona Beach. "We need to be a state where guys like me who are cancer victims aren't criminals in seeking treatment I'm entitled to."
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