Rep. James Grant fires shot across DOH’s bow over Charlotte’s Web

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While discussing a Department of Health proposal to use a lottery to award five Charlotte’s Web licenses, Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, demonstrated how a lawmaker fires a shot across the bow.

“I certainly have some concerns,” said Grant, chair of the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, which oversees agency rulemaking.

The Department of Health is constructing a regulatory framework for the Charlotte’s Web law which authorizes doctors to order a cannabis extract for patients starting Jan. 1. Grant’s committee gets the final say on how well of a job the department did.

The bill approved by lawmakers divides the state into five regions with one grower/dispenser in each. One licensee in each region will be allow to cultivate marijuana, extract oil from it, and sell it to authorize patients to treat seizures, muscle spasms and other diseases.

More than 60 Florida nurseries are eligible to apply for one of the five licenses available and regulators explained they proposed a lottery selection process as a way to avoid a rule challenge so that the medicinal product can be available Jan. 1, as called for in the Charlotte’s Web law.

“Getting it right is critical and making sure that these kids do get relief and quickly but I have a hard time believing that the most efficient solution that we can come up is a game of chance,” said Grant about the proposal.

At two public hearings, scores of lawyers, lobbyists and patient advocates basically told regulators the same thing.

Paige Figi, mother of the little girl for whom Charlotte’s Web is named told regulators called it an inappropriate method to select a provider of children’s medicine.

Lobbyist Ron Watson told regulators he had never seen so many lawyers agree on the same thing.

“I think you all are married to the lottery but I think this entire room might suggest that you consider getting divorced,” said Watson, representing the Florida Medical Cannabis Association.a

“If you had ever told me that we could have 200 lawyers, lobbyists and businessmen all agree on one thing I would have said absolutely no way,” said Watson.

There’s been no word from the department if it plans to hold another rulemaking workshop. It could either solicit more public input or file a proposal with the Department of State and the rules will be formally adopted 20 days later.

Florida’s rulemaking process restricts an agency’s rules to being no more expansive than the statutes the rules are designated to implement; rule making cannot exceed authority granted by the legislature. If it does, then it is Grant’s job to rein in the agency, it gets to decide if a department has exceeded its authority.

“Our staff will be looking at it because I do have some concerns about the lottery process,” said Grant. “I don’t know that a lottery is consistent with ‘A’ legislative intent and ‘B’ the statutory authority.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.