Florida - State Looks To Put Finishing Touches On Medical Marijuana Rule Today

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The final hearing on a proposed rule overseeing medical marijuana in Florida is scheduled today in Tallahassee, as health officials look to put the final touches on how the strain of non-euphoric, liquid pot will be made available Jan. 1. The hearing comes after two workshops each drew crowds topping 200 people to Tallahassee. While the first two gatherings were designed to take testimony on how to guide the new medical marijuana growing, sales and distribution, the state Department of Health's rule now looks close to being finalized. But lawyers for the Legislature recently threw a curve ball, firing off a letter to DOH questioning whether a number of provisions in the proposed rule fail to comply with the law passed and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The challenge could slow a rule-making process which many involved already have said appears unlikely to meet the Jan. 1 deadline for when doctors will be authorized to recommend the marijuana strain to patients suffering from epilepsy or cancer. Growers, advocates, business lobbyists and marijuana industry wannabe's have formed the bulk of the audience for the workshops. Many criticized how five growing and distribution centers, scattered geographically across the state, would be selected and operate.

Under the legislation, these five centers would be run by longstanding nurseries, firms that have been in business at least 30 years with an inventory of at least 400,000 plants. Legislative lawyers have challenged part of the proposed DOH rule that would allow nurseries looking to run these distribution centers to contract with other companies and financial backers, as long as the grower owned 25 percent of the business. The provision has raised concerns that growers could become only a nominal part of a larger, for-profit investment. In the final draft of the proposed rule, state officials also continue to stand by the idea of throwing the competition open to a lottery if more than one grower sought a license in a region. This provision has drawn almost unanimous condemnation from those testifying at the two workshops.



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