Charlotte’s Web challenge dismissed, DOH ordered to respond to last one


One challenge remains to block planting Florida’s first legal marijuana crop. And the Department of Health has a 5:00 p.m. deadline Wednesday in its effort to defeat it and begin implementing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.

Late Tuesday, Judge W. David Watkins dismissed the challenge filed by Master Growers. The order is here.

Watkins ruled that Master Growers lacked standing to sue DOH over a proposed rule to award five licenses authorized by lawmakers to grow marijuana and dispense medicinal oil.

“Since Master Growers does not qualify to apply to become a dispensing organization (since it does not meet the three statutory perquisites) its interest do not fall within the zone of interest to be protected or regulated by the proposed rules under challenge,” Watkins wrote.

Master Growers had filed suit as owner of Baywood Nurseries. A challenge by Baywood remains and Watkins Tuesday also ordered DOH to answer 35 questions Baywood had during discovery in preparation for Thursday’s hearing.

In a motion, DOH argued that most of the questions are overly broad and irrelevant to the case. The department’s response is here.

Watkins disagreed, and issued an order compelling the department to respond by 5:00 p.m. Wednesday. That order is here.

DOH has a motion pending seeking dismissal of the Baywood challenge. If it were to prevail and clear the final hurdle to implementing the 2014 law, then an application period for Charlotte Web’s licenses would begin in 20 days.

If Baywood were to prevail, the DOH would have to begin the rule making process a third time.

Meanwhile, SPB 7066, a legislative fix for the 2014 Act was scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon but it has been temporarily postponed.

SPB 7066 clarifies many of the issues driving the challenges but Sen. Rob Bradley, its sponsor, has balked at attempts to expand his proposal to allow higher levels of THC and a variety of cannabis products.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” Bradley said Tuesday.

Medicinal marijuana advocates have one eye on the Senate and another on Judge Watkins’ chamber.

“The Department has been in an uneasy position for quite some time, facing mounted challenges and a recognized inherently flawed piece of legislation,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida after word of Master Grower’s dismissal began to filter through the Capitol.

“Still, I believe, we must fix the inherent flaws legislatively in order to create a workable regulatory model for patients, dispensaries and communities.”

That may have to wait until next year. Sen. Jeff Brandes, an advocate for a broader medicinal marijuana law, agrees that the current regulatory structure is not appropriate for expanding the current law.

“It is my counsel to my fellow senators and my friends in the House that we take a step back, we spend the next couple of months really talking to experts on the regulatory structure and that we come back next year having fully vetted it; having done the hard work and that we put it through committee the right way,” said Brandes.

James Call


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