DOH schedules Charlotte’s Web workshop and remains silent about Linda McMullen

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The Florida Department of Health late Monday scheduled a December 30 rule development workshop in Orlando for the Charlotte’s Web law. Last month an administrative law judge invalidated a proposed rule. Meanwhile, the department still will neither confirm nor deny whether Linda McMullen, director of the Office of Compassionate Use has been reassigned.

Word started circulating Saturday that she had been reassigned. The Department of Health communication director said Saturday he would not have access to the individuals who would know until Monday.

Monday, the communications director said he would be in touch when he had more information. Eight hours later and another phone call and  still no word.

Monday was also the deadline for DOH to appeal Judge David Watkins’ ruling invalidating the proposed rule. DOH will now filed a 21-day Notice of Change, rewrite the rule, hold a public hearing in Orlando and then another 20-day review period before the regulations would become final if there is not another challenge.

Back to McMullen, I can’t find her listed on the Department of Health website, and the communication office isn’t talking. In Tallahassee, public information is an Orwellian term.

“I’m afraid we’re not going to see implementation of any medicinal marijuana law for at least six months,” said one knowledgeable source who talked on background.

In his final order invalidating proposed regulations for the Compassionate Medical Use Act of 2014, Watkins mentioned McMullen’s testimony nine times.

Watkins noted that she had claimed no experience in program areas relating to medical cannabis, could not elaborate on what would qualify an applicant for a lottery in awarding licenses and that McMullen had confirmed she would participate in a screening process of applicants but didn’t know what her role would be.

Lawmakers authorized five licenses to grow, process and dispense a cannabis oil for seizure patients. Different business groups speculate a medicinal marijuana industry in Florida could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. SB 1030 was written as a boon for Florida nurseries. To be eligible for a license, lawmakers wrote that a nursery had to be in operation for at least 30 years and have a plant inventory of 400,000.

Watkins’ in his ruling wrote that “Ms. McMullen confirmed that nothing in the rules prevents collusive applications in which one nursery or one out of state investor owns 75 percent of all applicants.”

Watkins’ ruling noted that the DOH acknowledged it relied upon its “inherent authority” in creating a rule without express or specific authority. He cited case law that agencies have no inherent authority and threw out the proposed rule.

“I thought she did an admiral job under difficult circumstances,” said Louis Rotundo of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association about McMullen.

She may still be doing it. We don’t know, she disappeared from the website and no one at the communications office seems to know anything about her.  Is it possible that she became an unperson?