A key Florida state senator said he is very pleased the Department of Health did not appeal a judge’s ruling invalidating a regulatory structure for a medicinal marijuana industry. Sen. Rob Bradley sponsored the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act and Bradley said Thursday that although he is extremely frustrated by the delay in getting cannabis oil to market to treat children with extreme epilepsy, he endorsed Secretary of Health John Armstrong’s decision to accept the judge’s ruling.
DOH is writing a new rule.
“I have personally spoken with the surgeon general and I’m confident that he’s moving the department forward with a new rule and my challenge is really to the growers to work within the rulemaking process rather move to the courts or the Legislature if things don’t go their way,” said Bradley, who chairs the Regulated Industries Committee.
DOH has scheduled a rule-making workshop for Dec. 30 in Orlando. Growers and business interests challenged the first set of regulations for expanding the pool of applicants beyond what lawmakers had designated, lacking a measurable criteria for evaluating applicants for licenses to grow marijuana and other issues.
Judge David Watkins ruled Nov. 14 DOH had exceeded its authority and ordered a rewrite.
The Legislature passed the Charlotte’s Web law in May and it included a Jan. 1, 2015, deadline for DOH to have regulations in place enabling doctors to include cannabis oil in its treatment plans for seizure and other illnesses.
It is unclear when the rules will be in place and when the medicinal oil will be available in Florida.
“Now that the department has guidelines maybe it can go a little quicker and the rule will reflect the direction given by the court and Legislature,” said Ron Watson, a lobbyist for medicinal marijuana businesses. “It would be nice to get a copy of the draft as early as possible so that we can provide the proper input at the next workshop.”
Watson was among the lobbyists, growers and patient advocates who testified during the summer at two workshops to develop the first set of proposed regulations. There was near unanimous rejection of a lottery provision included in the process to award five licenses authorizing the growing of marijuana and dispensing oil processed from it.
Stakeholders also objected to how DOH defined a delivery infrastructure for the cannabis oil and had testified it too would invite a challenge. The decision to include the disputed provisions in the final draft frustrated patient advocates. Lawmakers were told there are about 125,000 children in Florida with severe epilepsy who would benefit from the oil.
“Our goal collectively is to get Charlotte’s Web into the hands of suffering families,” said Bradley. “I’m going to be watching very closely to make sure that they move forward as quickly as is reasonably possible with the new rule. And if legislative intervention speeds it up then there will be legislative intervention.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner said Wednesday when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for committee meetings in January there will be members interested in a “robust” discussion about Charlotte’s Web.