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Charlotte’s Web hearing scheduled for April 14

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An administrative law judge has scheduled a hearing for April 14 on a rule challenge for the state’s Charlotte’s Web law. Judge Elisabeth W. McArthur has scheduled the hearing for 9:30 a.m at the DeSoto Building in Tallahassee.

It is the second legal challenge filed against the Department of Health over proposed regulations to grow marijuana and dispense medicinal cannabis oil. In preparation for the hearing DOH is beefing up its legal team. The Department has informed McArthur that Tallahassee attorneys W. Robert Vezina, Megan Reynolds and Eduardo Lombard will be representing it in the case.

The court docket is here.

Earlier this month the family of a child with brain cancer filed a challenge to the proposed rule. In court documents, attorney Ian Christensen charged the proposed regulations are arbitrary and capricious, were written by insiders and would result in “the politically connected, not the best qualified” being awarded licenses to grow marijuana and dispense medicinal oil.

It could take as long as 90 days for the case to be resolved and it remains unclear when regulations for Charlotte’s Web will be finalized. Last fall DOH officials explained to the judge who invalidated a lottery to award licenses to cultivate marijuana it is difficult to come up with a challenge-proof rule for an industry when there is more interest than opportunity.

The lottery scheme was to avoid a challenge to a scoring system to award the five licenses authorized. Christensen’s challenge noted the proposed scoring system lacks a minimum standard.

His challenge, as state Sen. Aaron Bean noted, “Really took the air out of the room.”

Stakeholders have until March 24 to file additional challenges.

State Sen. Rob Bradley said he is extremely frustrated with the situation. He sponsored the Compassionate Medicinal Cannabis Act of 2014 and it called for the regulations governing the cultivation of marijuana and the dispensing of medicinal oil to be in place Jan. 1.

Bradley is looking for a way to end any further delay. He said he intends to have a discussion in his Regulated Industries Committee in two or three weeks.

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, who sponsored the House bill, said “at the moment” the “unsolved mystery” is how to inject the Legislature into the stalemate without creating any more delays in getting the medicinal oil to sick children.

Lobbyists following the issue have been meeting since before the start of the session on a proposed glitch bill to free the Charlotte’s Web law from a legal swamp of hearings and challenges. A source speaking on background said it addresses the “more interest than opportunity” dilemma some believe is driving the challenges, legal shields for banking and testing laboratories and concerns about a business model for the industry.

The group might be ready to go on the record and make public its proposal next week.

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