First workshop on Charlotte’s Web implementation set for Monday

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The Department of Health has until Jan. 1 to implement regulations governing the use and manufacture of the Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana. The measure signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, SB 1030, allows doctors to treat patients with a cannabis extract for a specific set of ailments starting on the first day of 2015.

Monday, DOH will hold a daylong workshop to decide how the marijuana will be grown, processed and administered to patients. A 16-page draft of the rules was released last week. In addition to providing relief to the sick, the Charlotte Web law will also help an ailing Florida nursery industry recovering from the recession and a growing intrusion into the plant and seed market by national chains.

SB 1030 sets up a licensing process for growers with one license to cultivate, process and dispense a cannabis extract for each of five regions in the state.  Whoever is awarded a license will also have a head start on developing medical marijuana if voters in November approve an unrelated constitutional amendment allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana, not just an extract.

“All eyes are on the Department of Health to see what sort of rule-making they propose,” Ben Bolusky, chief executive officer of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association told the Orlando Sentinel in June.

Nationwide, legal medical marijuana represents a $1.53 billion market, according to Arcview Market Research. The estimated value in Colorado is $263 million and industry groups speculate the Florida market could be $785 million.

Bolusky speculates the industry lost up to 89,000 jobs due to the recession and increased competition from “big-box stores.” He estimates up to 30 percent of growing operations went under during the past decade.

SB 1030 ensures Florida-based growers will reap the benefits of a Charlotte Web’s market by stipulating in the licensing requirements that a grower is certified by the state Department of Agriculture and cultivates 400,000 plants and has been a registered nursery in the state for at least 30 continuous years.

Forty-six nurseries are eligible for one of the five licenses to be awarded. The draft rule to be discussed Monday includes a public lottery in awarding a license for a region if there is more than one applicant.  A lottery would determine the order in which the applications are reviewed and the first one meeting all requirements would get the license.

The workshop will address a variety of regulations including licensing fees, minimum standards for security and equipment, credentials for staff and other requirements.

The workshop is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Betty Easley Conference Center in Tallahassee.