DOH has until Monday for Charlotte’s Web appeal

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Monday we may know more about the future of Charlotte’s Web in Florida. That’s the deadline for the Department of Health to decide whether to appeal a judge’s ruling invalidating its proposed rules for medicinal marijuana.

Under the law approved in May, doctors are authorized to order a marijuana oil  to treat seizure, cancer and patients with muscular disorders starting Jan. 1, 2015.  However, when nurseries challenged DOH’s proposed rules identifying who is eligible for the licenses to grow marijuana that deadline was put in jeopardy and will be missed.

It’s unclear when the medicinal oil will be available. If DOH decides to rewrite the rules then it would take at least 56 days to finalize the proposal and award the five licenses available. Then tack on time for the plant to be cultivated, harvested and oil extracted before any product would be available.

That is, if the licensee has set up a dispensary to sell the product. DOH’s proposed rule will govern procedures and the hiring of staff. The law requires a dispensary to employ a medical director and for the medical director to have completed a two hour course and examination on low-THC cannabis and safety procedures.

That test hasn’t been written yet.

“We’re working on that, to have it ready,” said Jeff Scott, general counsel for the Florida Medical Association, which is charged with developing and administering the test.

“It’s hard to do a course for a medical director until the rules are ready (specifying) a medical director’s responsibilities,” said Scott. “We’ll put the finishing touches on (when the rule is ready). It won’t be a case of anyone waiting on us.”

The department has been mostly silent about whether it will rewrite the Charlotte’s Web rule book or appeal Judge David Watkins’ ruling.

“The Department of Health will consider all options that will most expeditiously get this product to market to help families facing serious illnesses,” has been DOH communication director Nathan’s Dunn’s only response since the Nov. 14 ruling.

If they department waives it right to appeal the ruling it is required to post a Notice of Change for 21 days while it does a rewrite. Once it finalizes a rule the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee would have 20 days to certify it. Then there would be a 15-day application period for the five Charlotte’s Web licenses authorizing the growing, processing and dispensing of a medicinal marijuana product.

Of course, that is a scenario without anyone challenging the proposal. Sen. Rob Bradley, sponsor of the Charlotte’s Web law, said if the legal wrangling isn’t resolved when the legislature convenes its spring session in March he expects there will be legislative fix.

“If we’re not ready to go by the time we reach session I would certainly anticipate that we would do whatever we can to seek a legislative fix to resolve any outstanding issues,” said Bradley. “We need to get this substance into the hands of these suffering families as quickly as possible.” said Bradley.