Dept. of Health not backing down from lottery system to select Charlotte’s Web growers

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Editor’s note: The following is cross-posted from PoliticsofPot.com.

The Florida Department of Health released a second draft of proposed rules for the state’s new medicinal marijuana law. The department is not backing off of its proposal to use a lottery to award five state licenses to grow a specific strain of marijuana low in THC.

Florida’s Charlotte’s Web law divides the state into five regions with one license for each region to cultivate and dispense a cannabis product. If there is more than one applicant in any one region then a lottery will be held to award the license.  At a public hearing on proposed rules held earlier this month, the lottery proposal was criticized by growers, investors and patient advocates.

“I can’t understand how they could listen to all that testimony and still hold onto a lottery. The fact is that does not get you the best it gets you the luckiest,” said Louis Rotundo of the Florida Medical Cannabis Association. “The department has options other than a lottery; negotiate rulemaking a stakeholder task force, convening a panel of experts.  I know this is not easy but there are avenues the department has to come up with criteria to get the best quality.”

“I believe that there needs to be more emphasis on strengthening the requirements of the dispensing organizations so that the five selected are truly the most capable, competent and professional in meeting the needs of patients,” said Dr. Jeff Sharkey, of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

Expect some protest also over how the department defines an applicant. Lawmakers stated that growers had to have been in operation for at least 30 years and have a 400,000 plant inventory. Many assumed that limited the licenses to longstanding Florida nurseries.

The draft released Tuesday defines an applicant as “any entity with at least 25 percent ownership by a nursery.”

The proposal also gives no indication that the department will authorize more than one retail location for each license.

Given that there will be only five dispensaries in the state others find the department’s interpretation as troubling.

“The law does not seem to prohibit a distribution network,” said Sharkey. “Look at the central Florida region, it’s huge.  You have to have more than one outlet.  You are not going to force people with cancer to drive four hours to get medicine. It makes no sense.”

There will be a public hearing on the proposed draft Friday in Tallahassee.

Other highlights of the proposal released Tuesday afternoon include:

  • Applicant does not have to be a nursery but can be an organization with 25 percent ownership in a nursery
  • Applications must be delivered to DOH in Tallahassee and a recommended courtesy copy given to the county sheriff.
  • Authorization to cultivate, process and dispense may be given in stages as the infrastructure and staffing are completed
  • A transportation plan for delivery to qualified patients must be included in application
  • Dispensing organization cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a school, day care center, public park or place of worship
  • A $5 million performance bond must be posted within 10 days of notification license will be awarded
  • License is for two years, renewal fee is $300,000
  • License can be revoked if it is discovered any owner or manager has a felony conviction or had worked for a dispensing organization which had its license revoked in Florida or another state
  • Duties of a medical director are defined.