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Charlotte's Web tangles grow deeper after more challenges filed

A stack of court documents makes it difficult to see when epileptic children will have access to medicinal cannabis oil to calm the dangerous seizures that wrack their small bodies. Sen. Rob Bradley’s effort to provide growers more opportunities to participate in a nascent medicinal marijuana industry failed to stop more lawsuits from being filed against the Department of Health’s proposed regulatory structure for Charlotte’s Web.

The Medical Cannabis Trade Association, a Delaware corporation, and Masters Growers of Sanford filed separate challenges Tuesday while Bradley introduced a “self-executing” proposal; bypassing the rule-making process for Florida’s medicinal marijuana law.

The two challenges share many of the same objections about a rule produced through a negotiated rule-making process. Attorneys for both the MCTA and Masters Growers argue the proposed way of regulating the awarding of license and setting the conditions for how licensees will operate is vague, overly broad and internally inconsistent as well as arbitrary and capricious.

The Masters Grower challenge, however, strongly objected to the committee of stakeholders DOH assembled for a workshop to produce the rule.

“The majority of committee members were certainly politically connected … unfit to serve as alleged sources of reliable information, expertise and industry input,” attorney Hilary Keely stated in court documents. “… The majority of Committee members appeared to be motivated by their own political, financial, and business goals.”

Rules were supposed to be in place by Jan. 1, according to the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2014 but the law has been stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire of workshops, hearings and court dates.

Bradley’s fix, SB 7066, addressed concerns raised by growers during 70-some hours of workshops and public hearings DOH held starting in August. It increases the number of licenses to grow marijuana and dispense cannabis oil from five to 20 — providing opportunities for more growers to participate in a new industry — and provided a legal shield allowing nurseries to maintain banking relationships while participating in activities the federal government considers a crime.

“We hope this brings clarity to a muddled situation,” Bradley said.

Although Bradley’s glitch bill cleared his Regulated Industries Committee on an 11-1 vote it is not any clearer when medicinal cannabis oil will be available to treat epilepsy, other neurological diseases and cancer.

“I commend Chairman Bradley in advancing a rational bill in an attempt to fix the inherent flaws found within last year’s legislation,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl, of the Medicinal Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

Lawmakers are in session until the end of April and with the Bradley fix, if approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, DOH would start the licensing process immediately before the ink dries on Gov. Rick Scott‘s signature.

However, there are now three challenges on the docket at the Division of Administrative Hearing. One filed on behalf of a child with brain cancer is scheduled for an April 14 hearing.

An attorney for the family said Bradley’s bill makes the challenge moot but will not withdraw it until a fix is adopted.

The two challenges filed Tuesday, the MCTA challenge is here, will be scheduled for a hearing within 30 days.

Whether Bradley can get the governor’s signature on his glitch bill, keep DOH out of court and fulfill a promise to deliver cannabis oil to sick children remains to be seen.

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