Editor’s Note: This article is cross posted in PoliticsOfPot.com.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, while campaigning in South Florida on Friday, condemned Gov. Rick Scott for using a lottery to decide which five companies would grow, manufacture and dispense “Charlotte’s Web,” the marijuana extract legalized by the Florida Legislature to reduce or eliminate seizures in children with epilepsy without having the substance to get users high.
Crist took a break from his three-day school bus tour leading up to the Aug. 26 Democratic primary against former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich to speak with local officials at the annual meeting of the League of Cities at The Westin Diplomat Resort.
Facing stiff opposition from nurseries, lawyers and families of children who would benefit from the form of non-euphoric marijuana, Scott’s administration continues to stand by the decision to use a lottery to award five highly coveted licenses. A draft rule issued by the Department of Health on Thursday said the agency will grant the licenses to businesses meeting particular qualifications suing a computer-generated “double random lottery-type system” to choose a winner in regions having more than one qualified applicant.
“The best way to award any contract is to have a good, open, honest, competitive process,” Crist said on Friday. “I don’t know that a lottery is the right way to go, frankly. It seems to me that people ought to submit their applications. They ought to be reviewed, thoroughly reviewed in a comprehensive fashion, and those that are determined to be the best are the ones that should get the contracts.”
However, Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida reports the lottery is “far from a done deal.” After a pair of draft rule workshops, health officials will hold one more hearing Sept. 5, and possibly modify the rule once again.
Florida’s “Office of Compassionate Use” has until Jan. 1 to develop a regulatory framework for providing patients the marijuana strain low tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — which produces euphoria — and high in cannabadiol, or CBD.
Passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature this spring and signed into law by Scott, the only nurseries allowed to participate are those that have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years, and have the capacity to produce a minimum of 400,000 plants.
Those qualifications leave about 60 nurseries eligible for licenses, and at least one grower has threatened to sue unless the agency drops the lottery specification. Under the proposed rule, nurseries only require a 25 percent ownership in any entity applying for a grower’s license.
Crist wound up the bus tour in Miami, ending the trip by greeting volunteers at a newly opened field office. Kam noted that Scott was also in Miami-Dade County on Friday to promote his job creation record.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a highly regarded Republican considered a prospective 2016 presidential candidate, joined Scott for the first time this campaign season at an event in Homestead.
Bush announced on Thursday his opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow doctors to order “traditional” medical marijuana for patients with chronic illnesses.
Scott also opposes Amendment 2, a referendum sponsored by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, Crist’s boss at the Morgan & Morgan law firm.
Polls show wide support for medical marijuana by Floridians of all ages and political parties. Nevertheless, GOP leaders remain hesitant. For example, Tampa Bay developer and major Republican fundraiser Mel Sembler, who is close to the Bush family, donated $100,000 to a political committee created to fight against the proposal.
On Friday, Crist called medical marijuana “compassionate” and “the right thing to do,” repeating his support for Amendment 2.
“I think that if a doctor prescribes medical marijuana to somebody who’s truly suffering and in need of help,” he added, “I think it’s a lot better than prescribing something powerful like OxyContin that’s so harmful.”