The devil is in the details. This is why state regulators went back to the drawing board to revamp the framework for Florida’s medical marijuana industry. On September 9, 2014, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) Office of Compassionate Use published a revised ruling governing everything medical marijuana: from stems and seeds to prescribing to patients. The latest version addresses issues regarding ownership rules on who can apply to be a medical marijuana dispenser in Florida.
The Office of Compassionate Use has until January 1, 2015, to come up with a finalized version of regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry.
Florida’s Current Law on Medical Marijuana.
On June 16, 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed SB 1030 (Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014) into law, making it legal for qualified Florida patients to take low-THC cannabis in liquid form. The specific medical marijuana is approved to treat certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, muscle spasms and cancer. The low-THC medical marijuana is expected to be ready in Florida by spring 2015.
Medical Marijuana Dispensary Requirements and Changes.
Five dispensing organizations will be licensed to grow, process, and distribute the low-THC cannabis.
The law will require each dispensing organization to have a valid registration from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to cultivate more than 400,000 plants, be operated by a “nurseryman,” and have previously operated as a registered nursery in Florida for at least 30 continuous years. These rules were drafted in order to encourage nurseries that meet these criteria to become growers of medical marijuana and discourage non-nursery companies from buying into and controlling the industry for profits.
The previous proposed rule neglected to specifically address whether a nursery would be required to have a continued role in running a dispensary. Under the recent revisions, a nurseryman has to serve as an operator of a dispensary. The revised proposal requires a nursery to have at least 25 percent ownership of a dispensing organization licensed by the state. The rule also states that a nurseryman who owns 100 percent of his business could also be the sole owner of a dispensary.
The revisions require a 21-day notification period. Then a legislative committee must certify the new rules and the DOH will have to adopt them, which is another 20-day process. If all dates hold, the process will be done on November 4, 2014.
I query why such ridiculous requirements are even being proposed. Is it an attempt to award certain individuals by creating a monopoly in certain areas? Requiring patients to travel great distances to one of only five dispensaries in the state also seems to be an irrational requirement.
What About the Disputed Lottery?
The revised rule states that the Office of Compassionate Use decided to stick with the plan to use a lottery system to select dispensing organizations, which the state will eventually license. Health officials believe the process will minimize drawn-out litigation over contract awards that could delay getting medical marijuana to patients.
Work in Progress.
With all the questions raised by the legislation, it is clear this framework for Florida’s medical marijuana industry is still a work in progress. There is still a lot of red tape to go through to get a functional business model approved for dispensing businesses. While state health officials sort out many lingering details, physicians and dispensaries alike are speculating and preparing for Florida’s medical marijuana industry. Don’t go the unknown road alone. It’s in your best interested to contact an attorney if you plan to have a hand in any part of Florida’s medical marijuana industry.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.
The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Kam, Dara. “Regulators Take Another Shot at Pot Rule.” Health News Florida. (September 10, 2014). From: http://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/post/regulators-take-another-shot-pot-rule
Galka, Matt. “Revisions Being Made to Non-Euphoric Medical Marijuana Law.” News 4 Jax. (September 10, 2014). From: http://www.news4jax.com/news/revisions-being-made-to-noneuphoric-medical-marijuana-law/27987260
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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