8 things to watch for in DOH’s draft rule on Charlotte’s Web

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Editor’s note: this article is cross-posted on PoliticsOfPot.com.

The Florida Department of Health has scheduled a second rule-making workshop for the state’s new medicinal marijuana law. Investors and business advocates generally give the department, ahem, high marks for its first draft of a regulatory structure for the cultivation, processing and distribution of a medicinal marijuana product.

However, many speakers at a July 7 public hearing about the first draft criticized many provisions and asked for more clarity in how the department is interpreting the new law.

“The details are not ultra-specified,” said Jeff Sharkley, of the Capitol Alliance Group and the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida. The law is only six pages long, which is comparatively short.

“Now, the “I’s” and “T’s” are being crossed and dotted so there is some determination and flexibility in there and I think they want to get it right,” said Sharkley.

A second draft is expected to be released before a second public hearing scheduled for Aug. 1.

“The department got a lot of clarification on a number of issues,” said Louis Rotundo, representing the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, when discussing the first workshop. “I think the department is going to have to give some clear guidelines on how it views the law.”

Here are eight items that growers, investors and other stakeholders expect DOH to address in a second draft:

  1. What business model is the department willing to recognize? Rotundo points out there is a significant difference whether the applicant is a grower with an organization to process and distribute a cannabis product and an organization that includes a grower. The question becomes, will the Department recognize applicant XYZ Corporation or only applicant Grower Smith.
  1. The awarding of a license. The first draft included a lottery system if there is more than one applicant in one of the five regions established in the law. The idea was criticized as inappropriate and not ensuring that the best applicants would be selected.
  1. Clarification of the difference between dispensary and distribution. The department reads the law as authorizing the distribution of the product at the place where the plant is grown and processed. Critics say dispensary and distribution are not interchangeable words and the department is misreading the law and legislative intent.
  1. Cultivation, how do growers get seeds and seedlings into the state to begin growing the plant?
  1. Who authorizes the placement of cannabis-related facilities? Is the decision up to the DOH or local zoning boards?
  1. What are the business-related fees?
  1. What is the length of the license and renewal process?
  1. Pricing, what steps is the department willing to take to prohibit price fixing? If there are just five growers and dispensers, then what consumer safeguards are in place?

Starting in January doctors will be allowed to order for patients a strain of marijuana high in a cannabadiol that supporters say helps manage pain and seizures. The measure approved by the Legislature allows five growing and distribution centers.  Growers have to have been in operation for at least 30 years and capable of growing at least 400,000 plants. The State Department of Agriculture says 55 growers qualify under those rules.

The Aug. 1 workshop for the Compassionate Cannabis Act of 2014 has been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Betty Easley Conference Center in Tallahassee.