Costa Farms satisfied with judge’s ruling in DOH/Charlotte’s Web case

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Costa Farms’ petition challenging the regulations for the Charlotte’s Web law rested on the argument that the Department of Health exceeded its authority when it expanded the criteria for eligible applicants for the five licenses authorized by the Legislature.

“The proposed rule diminishes the importance of the statutory list of selection criteria, treating these as just eligibility requirements; and instead uses an unauthorized random selection to choose among eligible applicants, stated the petition by Costa attorney’s Stephen Turner and David K. Miller.

Judge David Watkins accepted the argument, siding with Costa Farms and invalidating the lottery portions of DOH’s rule.

“We are very pleased with the decision today,” said Peter Freyre, a Costa Farms vice president.

“We feel today’s resolution is the right decision for the state’s sick and suffering patients who will be helped by the use of low-THC cannabis – their medicine should be produced by the best and most qualified applicants, not the luckiest.

In invalidating the lottery, Judge Watkins struck down a portion of the proposed rule that drew almost unanimous opposition from stakeholders testifying at three public hearings. The judge’s decision also invalidates portions of the rule regulating what entities may apply, when the application fee is payable and financial requirements of applying.

“Unfortunately five months of rule making have gone up in smoke,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

The department will now renter the rule-making process to address the judge’s order.

DOH must file a 21-day notice of a rule change.  The Joint Administrative Procedural Committee would have 20 days to finalize a new draft. The proposal would then be filed with the Department of State and if there are no more challenges then an application period for five licenses to cultivate, process and dispense Charlotte’s Web oil would begin.

“The Department of Health will consider all options that will most expeditiously get this product to market to help families facing serious illnesses,” said Nathan Dunn, DOH’s communications director.