Patricia Nelson, director of the Florida Office of Compassionate Use, spent most of her Friday morning on the defensive.
What kept her busy was justifying the plan to regulate the state’s nascent marijuana industry.
For three hours and 10 minutes, attorneys for Baywood Nurseries of Apopka grilled Nelson about licensing requirements to grow marijuana and dispense cannabis oil. They were challenging the proposed rule as unfair, saying it effectively blocks smaller nurseries from qualifying for a license,
Baywood sued on March 24 to stop the rule adoption. The rule is here.
If Baywood succeeds in having the rule invalidated, then the Florida Department of Health will have to restart a rule-making process for the third time. The DOH missed a Jan. 1 date to implement the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, making medical cannabis oil available and accessible to epileptic children and cancer patients.
Baywood attorney Charles Moure questioned Nelson about the selection of members of the negotiated rule-making committee, as well as why no independent marijuana experts were consulted, how fees were determined and the distinction in the department’s definition of the words “owner,” “operator” and “manager” of a dispensing organization.
The CMCA states an owner of a dispensary will be a nursery.
“The statute says all owners and managers have level II background screenings so the assumption is these operations will (require) more than one manager,” Nelson said, adding that in all the hearings held, no one had expressed confusion about how the departments used the terms.
Moure zeroed in on a proposed DOH scorecard for evaluating applications for the five licenses authorized by lawmakers. His questioning focused on the nine points listed under technical ability to cultivate marijuana. Nelson had explained they were listed randomly, not in any order of importance.
“You think (they have) experience of equal importance under technical ability in having experience in the cultivation of cannabis?” Moure said.
“When you say of equal importance you are assuming there is a point value and that is not the case,” Nelson said. “All an applicant has to do is address these, whether they apply or don’t apply (to the applicant) is not scored.
“Everything that comes in everything they submit under technical ability for us to look at is all evaluated as (to) their technical ability.”
At 12:40 p.m., Moure finished his interrogation of Nelson.
DOH attorney Eduardo Lombard told Judge W. David Watkins he had about an hour of questions for Nelson. The OCU director returns to the witness stand Friday afternoon.