Patients, doctors speak about effects of proposed THC cap for medical marijuana

Published: April 6, 2021 7:33 AM EDT
Updated: April 6, 2021 8:50 AM EDT

How high is too high? A North Fort Myers representative is proposing a cap on how much THC can be prescribed to patients. Now patients and doctors alike are reckoning with how it could affect them.

Scot Goldberg is a local attorney used to fighting for his clients, but this time it’s more personal: Suzy Goldberg, his wife, was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer three years ago, so she has to do chemotherapy every two weeks for the rest of her life. The process causes her a lot of pain, so her team of doctors and oncologists prescribed medical marijuana.

“The medical marijuana allows her to have a quality of life where she’s not laying in bed or laying in front of the toilet for hours on end,” Scot Goldberg said. “And I think that’s what it’s all about, is your quality of life, and how much time we get to spend with each other, the quality time. That’s what I’m so thankful for: that she was able to see our children get married, she was able to see the things in the last two-and-a-half years that she was worried she wouldn’t get to see. And she got to do that because she felt good enough to go out and be a part of that. That’s the quality of life that the medical marijuana brings us.”

Goldberg says his wife gets more relief from this than from an opioid prescription, and she was able to ween off opiates completely following a surgery. He says she takes her THC in pill form at night because she doesn’t want to inhale the smoke.

The proposed bill would limit the percent of THC in medical marijuana to 10% potency in smokable marijuana and 60% in all other forms, like concentrates and pills. The experts at My Florida Green in Naples, a medical marijuana certification center, say every patient has a different case and different reaction to THC, which means everyone will get a different dose.

A lot of people with issues like cancer, chronic pain or problems with sleeping use medical marijuana as a safer alternative to opiates. My Florida Green say it’s gotten a lot more patients and a lot more people who have never smoked before, because medical marijuana has become less taboo. Medical marijuana advocates fear this bill would do far more harm than good.

“It’s going to increase the amount that they have to spend in order to access medicine,” said Nicholas Garulay, CEO of My Florida Green. “If that’s their route, they’re actually gonna have to smoke more to get the relief.

“Now I’m gonna have to tell these people, ‘Oh, by the way, now you’re going to have to use twice as much, three times as much, 10 times as much—you’re gonna go broke,'” said Dr. Athina Kyritsis, physician with My Florida Green. “You’re going to be better off buying it on the street. Can you imagine me saying that, because they can’t get good, clean product from the dispensaries? I mean, that’s… it’s very frightening to me.”

Suzy Goldberg is one patient who takes much more THC than what the bill’s limit would be.

“If they were to change up her dosage, she would be having to either take two pills (which would be too much) or we would have to open up the pills and guess at the amount of milligrams that she was taking,” Scot Goldberg said. “And that’s just not something that I feel comfortable with, nor would the doctors want her to do—being a guinea pig to figure out what the right dosage is.”

Florida does not currently have a cap on potency, relying on what doctors feel is best for each patient. North Fort Myers representative Spencer Roach said he authored the bill because he’s worried medical marijuana would be the sequel to the opioid crisis, and argues we don’t know the full extent of its mental health effects.

The bill is still making its way through house committees for now.