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Compassionate Use director Patti Nelson leaving DOH

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Patricia “Patti” Nelson, who has led the Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use since its inception in 2014, is leaving the department and joining the Executive Office of the Governor, according to a DOH spokesman on Monday.

“Patricia Nelson will be rejoining the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget,” read a response to an inquiry. “The Florida Department of Health is grateful for her service and wishes her well in her new position.”

That leaves a key position unfilled as the department undertakes the momentous task of reviewing applications for one of five licenses to manufacture medical cannabis as part of the state’s nascent Charlotte’s Web regime.

Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida co-founder and lobbyist Taylor Patrick Biehl told SaintPetersBlog he is sorry to see Nelson go.

“She was a pleasure to work with, and performed phenomenally throughout a long series of legal and procedural challenges to the Charlotte’s Web law and its implementation,” said Biehl.

“We can only hope that her exit doesn’t mean a delay for the patients that need and deserve relief from this important medicine,” he added.

But with 28 applications amounting to tens of thousands of pages currently up for review and now with no one at the helm of a challenging and novel legal process — how could it not?

A DOH spokesperson confirmed the move late Monday afternoon, and said the department does not expect a delay.

“We are actively searching for a new Director for the Office of Compassionate Use and hope to have an announcement soon,” read an email from DOH’s Mara Burger.

“As we transition, the department remains committed to getting this product to children with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer as safely and quickly as possible. No delays are anticipated as a result of this transition.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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