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Sponsor of drug tests for welfare recipients says he supports marijuana use for seizures

The House sponsor of the bill to test welfare recipients for drug use has joined the bandwagon to decriminalize a non-euphoric strain of marijuana for medical purposes.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, wrote on his Facebook page, and in a letter to his supporters Monday, that he will support an emerging House proposal to allow for the legal sale of marijuana high in cannibidiol but low in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces a high. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee last week heard testimony from parents seeking a state exception to the ban on marijana for medicinal uses.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, stunned supporters of the effort last week when he announced he will propose a committee bill to seek to exempt certain strains of marijuana from the state ban, so that parents of children suffering from severe epilepsy could have access to the extracts. A recent medical breakthrough in Colorado has shown that the strain, known as Charlotte's Web, has signficantly reduced seizures in some children.

Now Smith, who sponsored legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012 to require the state to give drug tests to people seeking welfare benefits, has abandoned his opposition to drugs to support the exception.

"As the representative who ran the bill on drug testing welfare recipients, I want to make it clear in this statement that I DO NOT endorse the smoking of marijuana for the purpose of becoming intoxicated (high), I do however plan on supporting a change in statutes that will decriminalize the use of pill, cream or other forms of the plant that do not have enough Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to produce a high but will allow for it to achieve its medical purpose," Smith wrote in his letter.

"...Regrettably, there are those currently speaking out in support of legal marijuana with the goal of creating a legal means to get high. As I support this good bill it is my hope that they would set aside their childish goal and instead focus on providing this important substance in pill, cream, or other form containing less than .5% THC but having the medical ability to help those who need it. There are children who are suffering and even dying from severe epilepsy. If the discussion is really medical marijuana, then let’s get behind the Florida house and truly help those in need."

The drug testing law has been struck down as unconstitutional in federal court but Scott said this month that he will appeal the ruling, even though it cost the state more to implement than it produced in cost savings.

Smith also sponsored the bill that to allow state agencies to drug test their employees and fire those who test positive but that proposal has also been put on hold pending a lawsuit. 

Unlike Smith, however, Scott has said he does not support allowing an exception for medical use of marijuana to help children suffering from seizures. Scott has joined Attorney General Pam Bondi in opposing a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot and asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject it as misleading.
When asked by a reporter last week if he would support allowing parents of children with epilepsy to have access to marijuana for medical uses, the governor said: "I oppose illegal drug abuse, I’ve watched what it does to families. I think the attorney general has done the right thing with the advice she gave the Supreme Court. Have a great day!"