Sen. Pres. Gardiner: Senate has obligation to “see where we are” on Charlotte’s Web

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Forty-five seconds is how long it took. Kevin Bist’s update on the Office of Compassionate Use took all of 45 seconds from the time he said Office to the report’s conclusion.

Department of Health Secretary John Armstrong permitted a rare public update on DOH’s implementation of a medicinal marijuana law Wednesday in Tallahassee.

He included discussion of the Office of Compassionate Use on the agenda of a meeting of the Drug Policy Advisory Council meeting. Senate Bill 1030 permits the growing of marijuana and authorizes doctors to prescribe cannabis oil to children with severe epilepsy, cancer patients and others with debilitating illnesses.

DOH’s first set of proposed regulations was ruled invalid last month by an administrative law judge. This week, the first director of the Office of Compassionate Use was reassigned and a public workshop on rules development was scheduled for Dec. 30.

Bist delivered a 45-second update. Armstrong answered one question from the public about a drug policy initiative, adjourned the meeting and exited the room from the right while three reporters waited on his left to talk to him about Charlotte’s Web rule development.

“I think there are some legitimate questions about the rule-making process and the families deserve to know where we are,” said Sen. President Andy Gardiner earlier Wednesday.

“I think Sen. Bradley through the Regulated Industries Committee and Sen. Bean in Health Regs will take a healthy discussion and say ‘What do we need to do?’. . .  I’m confident Sen. Bradley and Sen. Bean will come up with something that will work,” said Gardiner.

The Senate President said it is “unfortunate” that lawmakers approved a measure authorizing doctors to use medicinal marijuana in their patient’s treatment plans and it is unclear when the product will be available.

The growers and others who challenged the first proposed rule argue the judge invalidated the proposal on a handful of issues and provided a “roadmap” to a legal rule.

Instead of addressing the issues Armstrong decided to open up the rulemaking process and will present a new draft at the Orlando workshop.

“There comes a point where you workshop stuff to death,” said Gardiner. “All I know when we come back up here in January I think you will see some legislators that will want to bring people in and talk to them about it and see where we are. We have an obligation.”

Gov. Rick Scott has reappointed Armstrong as Secretary of Health, subject to Senate confirmation. Gardiner was asked if the handling of Charlotte’s Web regulations will be a factor at his confirmation hearing.

“You’ll have to talk to Sen. Richter who is chair of that committee about that. It has not been on my radar screen at all,” said Gardiner.