The Florida Department of Health is not backing away from its plan to use a lottery when selecting who will grow Florida’s first medicinal marijuana crop. Friday, DOH released a revised draft of rules implementing the Charlotte’s Web law and scheduled a Sept. 5 hearing for the public to comment. Scores of lobbyists, lawyers and patient advocates opposed having a lottery as part of the selection process for awarding licenses to sale oil extracted from cannabis to treat seizures.
I am very disappointed that the DOH is still married to the lottery. Most everyone suggested a divorce, said Ron Watson of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association. “A Merit based selection should be the reason to win, not chance.”
The state will award five licenses to cultivate, process and sale a cannabis extract which doctors can start ordering for patients starting Jan. 1. Stake holders also are at odds with the department’s interpreting the law to restrict licensees to one dispensary to sale the drug. Rules call for a transportation plan and allow a dispensing organization to deliver a 90-supply to patients.
“Although a transportation plan offers a type of distribution, I don’t believe that it meets the statutory requirement of “an infrastructure reasonably located to dispense,” statewide, said Watson.
Or as Louis Rotundo, also representing the FMCA put it, “Webster does not define infrastructure as a truck. It’s a place.”
But the revised rule still includes provision for each licensee to have just one dispensing location where patients can pick up their medicine or from which to order a 90-day supply. Patient advocate complain the department is being too restrictive.
This appears to be a final draft of the rule since the department has scheduled a hearing and not a workshop where it seeks public input to inform developing rules. Under Florida rulemaking process, rules don’t go into effect until 20 days after they filed with the Secretary of State office.
“The rule will not be filed with the Secretary of State until it is adopted which will occur at some point in the future, “ said Pamela Crain, DOH deputy press secretary, in an email exchange.
Lawmakers passed the Charlotte’s Web law once it appeared certain supporters of Amendment 2, which would authorize doctors to use the marijuana plant, not a cannabis extract, to treat patients would gather enough signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot. Polls indicate overwhelming support for the measure.
Taylor Patrick Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida called Amendment 2 the elephant in the room after listening to hours of criticism of the proposed lottery and a provision allowing just one retail location per license.
“With Amendment 2 looking to pass, I believe litigants will argue that it does not directly limit the number of dispensaries that are permitted to operate in Florida,” said Biehl. “(But) the Charlotte’s Web rule could be the template for the rules that are promulgated as a result of Amendment 2.”
Industry experts estimated a medicinal marijuana market in Florida could generate more than $700 million. So expect a lot of people to be interested in the Sept. 5 public hearing on the latest draft of rules for Charlotte’s Web. The daylong meeting will be held in the Betty Easley Conference Center in Tallahassee.