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Tentative hearing on Charlotte's Web rule scheduled

The Florida Department of Health has tentatively scheduled a March 2 public hearing for a proposed rule to implement the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. A two-day-25-hour negotiated rulemaking session with regulators and stakeholders produced a set of regulations for awarding licenses to cultivate marijuana and process oil from the plant to dispense as medicine.

“This rule brings us much closer to providing this product safely and efficiently to children and families dealing with intractable epilepsy and patients dealing with advanced cancer,” said Patricia Nelson, director of the Office of Compassionate Use.”

DOH entered into negotiations with growers, patient advocates and out-of-state cannabis experts after its first set of rules was invalidated by an administrative law judge. The 12-membr committee drew up a scorecard to award the five licenses lawmakers authorized, application fees and timeline requirement to get the produce to market.

The rule is now in a 21-day public comment period and stakeholders could request a hearing or file suit to stop its adoption. If there is no challenge then the medicinal oil could be available by the end of December. A challenge would further delay implementation and increase pressure for the legislature to get involved and pass a glitch bill clarifying intent and stopping the feuding among growers, advocates and business interests.

“I think the Legislature has interest in doing something (if there are further delays),” said Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Gardiner has assigned a bill by Senator Jeff Brandes which would expand the use of marijuana and illnesses covered by the state’s cannabis law to the Senate Regulated Industry Committee chaired by Sen. Rob Bradley, Senate sponsor of the 2014 law.

“What our goal is collectively is to get Charlotte’s Web into the hands of suffering families if the mechanism is legislative action then let’s take legislative action,” said Bradley who in December said if issues weren’t resolved by the March start of the legislative session then he expects there will be a legislative fix. However, he cautions the risk in legislative action is further delay in getting medicinal cannabis to market.

Gardiner expects Bradley to hold a workshop on the Brandes bill.

Tuesday two House members filed the session’s second marijuana bill. A measure by Rep. Greg Steube and John Wood address authorizes the use of a non-smoke able form of marijuana – the Brandes proposal leaves how the medicine is administered up to the physician.

The question before lawmakers is whether to expand a medicinal cannabis act or further repeal marijuana prohibitions before the state has implemented the 2014 Act.

“I thought the first go around the Department of Health didn’t really do a good job analyzing how we could go forward with it,” said Rep. Ray Pilon of DOH’s difficulties in developing a regulatory structure.

“This go around I watched a lot of the meetings, painfully slow as they were, and they hashed out, no pun intended, a lot of the details and I am hopeful will be no challenge and we will not have to do a glitch bill,” said Pilon.

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