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Charlotte's Web challenge deadline now is March 24

It’s coming down to the wire with the finishing line on the move. A deadline to challenge the proposed rule for the state’s medicinal marijuana law is March 24, according to the Department of Health, not Thursday.

“The later date is due to the Revised Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs, which was prepared in response to the submission and rejection of a Lower Cost Regulatory Alternative,” wrote Tiffany Cowie, DOH’s spokeswoman in an e-mail exchange.

To review: The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee had questions concerning the proposed rule including DOH’s calculation of a Statement of Estimated Regulatory Costs.

DOH’s response to the JAPC inquiry represented a revision: By pulling out a provision relating to license renewal and avoiding a cost threshold requiring legislative ratification, DOH started a new timeline for finalizing the proposal. The revision was announced at a March 2 hearing but few in attendance recognized it as a formal revision and what it represented: a new deadline.

“After a rule-making process guided by broad stakeholder consensus, a patient-centered rule has been created that gives patients access to the product that their doctors deem as their only option. The department looks forward to implementing this rule as soon as possible,” Secretary of Health John Armstrong said in a prepared statement March 5.

DOH was relatively quiet about the new deadline. It did prepare a news release but apparently failed to notify anyone else. One lobbyist suggested it was in the interest of the rules supporters to keep mum about the later deadline.

The drawing of a timeline in the Florida rule-making process is complicated. It’s like coming to a three-way fork in the rule and a new clock may start ticking depending on the route chosen. Then, regardless of the road taken, a two-way fork quickly appears.

“I’m hearing a challenge is coming today or tomorrow,” said one source noting the confusion surrounding rule making. He requested anonymity as he works to persuade  disgruntled stakeholders to allow the latest proposal become finalized.

Lawmakers and patient advocates are working behind the scenes to head off any challenge.

“There’s no reason for further delays in getting Charlotte’s Web into the hands of patients who continue to struggle. This is a solid framework to ensure that children suffering from intractable epileptic seizures and cancer patients have the relief they deserve,” Sen. Rob Bradley said about the rule developed during a negotiated-rule making session with a panel of growers and other stakeholders.

Bradley sponsored the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014. Rep. Matt Gaetz carried the bill in the House and explained that lawmakers want that law implemented before discussing any further changes to the state marijuana policy.

“I think it’s best to go around the block with the training wheels on first,” Gaetz said. “Lets implement the law and sees how it works before we start making any changes.”

If no challenge is filed by the end of business on March 24 then applications for licenses to grow Florida’s first legal marijuana crop will be accepted starting April 15.

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