Medical marijuana bill will not help most Florida patients

Kellie Cowan reports

- Governor Rick Scott can either sign it, veto it, or let it go into law without his signature. Whatever he decides, the medical marijuana expansion bill HB 307 won't do anything to help some sick patients who say they really need it.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R- Fort Walton Beach) and Sen. Rob Bradley (R- Fleming Island), would allow terminally ill patients (defined as those given less than 12 months to live) the ability to purchase medical marijuana. Considering its limited scope, and the lack of action on previously passed compassionate care legislation, many are skeptical about how much this bill truly accomplishes.

"How many people are terminally ill and are scared to break the law?" said Moriah Barnhart, a founding member of Cannamoms, a group of parents advocating for legalized medical marijuana.

Barnhart's daughter, Dahlia, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor when she was just two. Now five, and still suffering from cancer, Dahlia has undergone numerous surgeries and rounds of chemo, which has taken a huge toll on her tiny body.

"She was losing weight, had atrophy of her legs," recalled Barnhart. "She was just in awful shape, but more than that was, she was in pain every second of every single day and there was nothing we could do to help her."

Not legally, at least.

Barnhart says her daughter was prescribed numerous powerful opioids, including morphine and fentanyl, to help manage pain, but said nothing seemed to work for Dahlia, until her mom decided to try cannabis oil.

"The change that I saw in Dahlia was literally immediate," said Barnhart. "The very first time I gave it to her she slept through the night for the first time in her life."

Barnhart says she charts her daughter's cannabis oil treatment, checks with pharmacists on a regular basis regarding possible drug interactions and informs all care providers of Dahlia's cannabis oil treatment.

Dahlia is currently being treated at All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine.

FOX 13 News asked her pediatric neuro-oncologist, Dr. Stacie Stapleton, some questions about medical marijuana use.

FOX 13 News: In general, what is your stance on medical marijuana? Do you support the use of certain forms of medical marijuana?  By certain patients?

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine supports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement: "The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update." The AAP does not currently support medical marijuana outside of the Food and Drug Administration process to approve pharmaceutical products.

All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine as an institution and the doctors and health care professionals within the institution have a legal, moral, and ethical duty to provide standard of care treatments that are legal, controlled, monitored and proven to be safe and effective as possible, while also participating in state of the art research that is legal, controlled, monitored and guided by the scientific method.

FOX 13 News: What do you tell patients/patient's parents who ask about trying medical marijuana as a method of pain management?

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: More research is needed to determine the correct dosing for cannabinoids, and we need to be able to formulate cannabinoids safely as we do for any other medication.

While cannabinoids may have potential as a therapy for a number of medical conditions, dispensing marijuana raises concerns regarding purity, dosing and formulation, all of which are of heightened importance and a safety concern in children.

FOX 13 News: If legalized, would you take the necessary steps to be able to prescribe medical marijuana? 

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine supports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement "The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update." The AAP does not currently support medical marijuana outside of the Food and Drug Administration process to approve pharmaceutical products.

FOX 13 News: Numerous states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, do you feel the state of Florida is behind in its view of marijuana as a form of pain management or do you feel other states have moved too quickly to allow its use?

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: More research is needed to determine the correct dosing for cannabinoids, and we need to be able to formulate cannabinoids safely as we do for any other medication.

While cannabinoids may have potential as a therapy for a number of medical conditions, dispensing marijuana raises concerns regarding purity, dosing and formulation, all of which are of heightened importance and a safety concern in children.

FOX 13 News: What pain management medications do you prescribe to your patients?

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: Tylenol, morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, oxycodone are prescribed and used carefully in our patients.

FOX 13 News: Do your patients ever receive morphine or other opioids for pain management?

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: Yes, routinely as part of the comprehensive approach to care.

FOX 13 News: How much have you read about/studied the use of medical marijuana? 

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: As an academic medical center and a leader in pediatrics, our board-certified fellowship trained physicians are expert in their fields. We routinely treat the most complex cases and the sickest patients. Many of our physicians lead or participate in research studies and clinical trials and publish the studies that other physicians read about.

FOX 13 News: Do you feel there is prejudice in the medical world against medical marijuana? 

Dr. Stacie Stapleton: At All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine we practice evidence-based medicine and our doctors and health care professionals within have a legal, moral, and ethical duty to provide standard of care treatments that are legal, controlled, monitored and proven to be safe and effective as possible, while also participating in state of the art research that is legal, controlled, monitored and guided by the scientific method.

Article from AAP on medical marijuana:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Reaffirms-Opposition-to-Legalizing-Marijuana-for-Recreational-or-Medical-Use.aspx

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