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Senate’s Charlotte’s Web fix to be released Monday

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Florida Medical Cannabis Association lobbyist Louis Rotundo nailed it last month when he said, “we’re about to smoke them out.” Rotundo commented after the Department of Health released a proposed Charlotte’s Web rule, a product of a negotiated rule making session with stakeholders in a medicinal marijuana industry.

“I think the department did as good of a job that can be done with the law as it is written. Any problem now is not with the rule but with the law not getting people where they want to go,” explained Rotundo. “And if it’s the law then you don’t go to the department, you go to the Legislature.”

They are, Tuesday. That’s when state Sen. Rob Bradley, sponsor of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, will introduce a rewrite of the law during a Regulated Industries Committee meeting. Bradley is frustrated with the delays, as is everyone else, and as chair of the committee he’s going to lead the discussion on ending the fighting, getting the pot in the ground and medicinal oil to sick children.

Florida’s first legal marijuana crop was supposed to be in the ground by now. Families of children afflicted with an often-fatal form of epilepsy were expecting this summer to be able to buy medicinal cannabis oil to calm their seizures. Instead bureaucrats and growers have been unable to agree on rules to allow cultivation of marijuana and the processing of oil from the plant.

Senate rules require a bill’s language to be ready at least 24 hours before a committee meeting. So, we’ll get to see Bradley’s proposed fixed by 1:30 p.m. Monday.

“What we would be looking to do is create a self-executing law,” Bradley told Florida Politics two weeks ago after the latest rule was challenged.

DOH has conducted five workshops and hearings, lost one lawsuit and is preparing for a second concerning how, among other things, it will award the five licenses lawmakers authorized to grow marijuana.

“At the end of the game this is a rule about growers. The rule doesn’t have anything to do with doctors; it doesn’t have anything to do with patients. This is the rule by which growers will implement a cannabis product for the state of Florida,” said Rotundo.

As Rotundo suggested it is important to get growers to buy into the regulations and the law itself. DOH identified to the judge who invalidated its first proposal the root of the dispute preventing the planting of the state’s first legal marijuana crop. The law created more interest in medicinal marijuana than opportunity — it authorized just five licenses and is so restrictive that Florida is not included among the 23 states allowing medicinal marijuana.

Industry experts speculate marijuana in Florida will grow into a $700 million industry. There are about 20 growers with the financial capability to pursue a license and be part of the start-up with Charlotte’s Web. Any one of them could challenge a rule if they believed it was not advantageous to their interest.

Other growers’ concerns expressed throughout the process that began last summer surround banking problems created by the conflict between federal and state law — growers are reluctant to place their assets at risk based on a wink and nod from the state; procedures revoking a $5 million performance bond — a lot of money to risk on what may be an arbitrary and capricious decision; and whether there is a sensible business model for a pool of fewer than 2,000 patients.

“I would expect that we would consider expanding the list of ailments that could be treated,” said Bradley. How he intends to address the other issues we will know by mid-afternoon Monday.

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