First workshop on Charlotte’s Web draws mix of growers, lobbyists, business interests

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Editor’s note: The following is cross-posted from Politics of Pot.

About 200 lobbyists, investors and patient advocates today filled a Tallahassee conference room to begin hammering out how Florida will implement a medicinal marijuana law passed by the Legislature in April.

The National Cannabis Industry Association estimates medical marijuana will be a $785 million industry in Florida. The Department of Health’s (DOH) first workshop on regulations for SB 1030 enticed Roy Davis, a Hillsborough County grower, to travel to Tallahassee and take in the discussion.

“It appears to have the potential of being a very lucrative market, so I’m interested in their rules,” said Davis, who owns Capital Wholesale Nursery. “It’s been a very rough 10 years and it would be a way for us to recover from the recession.”

Jennifer Tschetter, general counsel for DOH, chaired the meeting and was accompanied by Linda McMullen, the new director of the Office of Compassionate Use, Cassandra Pasley, chief of DOH’s Bureau of Healthcare Practitioner Regulations, and Chad Stevens, a DOH senior attorney.

Tschetter explained the workshop was the first of a series of public meetings where bureaucrats and stakeholders will discuss “best first ideas.”   Those ideas were released in a 16-page draft of rules for the Charlotte’s Web law, which allows certain patients to use a marijuana extract that produces little or no psychoactive effect.

The stakeholders identified problems in the department’s proposal:

— using a lottery to award the five licenses to cultivate, process and dispense a cannabis extract

— giving staff access to a Compassionate Use Registry

— determining whether an applicant for a license is an individual or an organization

— identifying a source of an initial supply of seeds and seedling for licensees, which the draft rule did not address.

Numerous witnesses urged the DOH to allow a licensee to have more than one retail location to dispense a medicinal marijuana product. The law calls for five regional licenses to grow cannabis and dispense an extract.  The draft rule requires a license application to include a site plan showing location of the cultivation, processing and dispensing areas. The wording raised the question of whether DOH intends for each licensee to have just one retail location.

“The way the law is written, it gives the department the authorization to allow a licensee to have more than one retail location,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R- Fort Walton Beach, the House sponsor of the Cannabis Compassionate Use, or Charlotte’s Web law.

“It’s up to the department,” said Gaetz.

Tschetter said there will be a series of public hearings and a final workshop before DOH adopts regulations for SB 1030. Once they are formally adopted, the regulations will go into effect 20 days later.

The rulemaking must be completed by Jan. 1, 2015, when physicians will be allowed to order a medicinal marijuana product for patients.