Pubdate: Wed, 10 Sep 2014
Source: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
Copyright: 2014 The Palm Beach Post
Author: John Kennedy
Page: B2


Barring Lawsuits, New Rule May Take Effect Late October.

TALLAHASSEE - State health officials Tuesday started the countdown 
clock on a proposed rule governing the production and sale of a 
medical marijuana strain approved earlier this year by the Florida Legislature.

The Health Department has worked most of the summer on the needed 
rule and made the latest changes following a final public hearing 
last Friday. Barring a possible legal challenge, the rule could be 
ready to take effect by late October.

In the latest version, department officials attempted to clarify the 
terms of ownership for marijuana dispensaries and moved Martin County 
from a Central Florida dispensary region to the one containing Palm 
Beach County and the rest of Southeast Florida.

Under the measure signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, doctors in 
January will be authorized to recommend a liquid form of non-euphoric 
marijuana to cancer and epilepsy patients beginning in January.

"Today's publication of a changed rule demonstrates that our focus 
has been to get this product to the market as soon as possible with 
an emphasis on patient safety," said Florida Surgeon General John 
Armstrong. "We want to avoid unnecessary delays. We want to help 
children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer 
as quickly and safely as possible."

Getting a rule in place may help opponents of a separate Florida 
medical marijuana measure - a proposed constitutional amendment on 
the Nov. 4 ballot that would allow conventional marijuana to treat a 
much wider range of illnesses and for conditions where its use "would 
likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient."

Law enforcement organizations and business associations are among 
those fighting the ballot proposal, warning it kicks the door open to 
wholesale pot use. The measure needs at least 60 percent voter 
approval to become law.

Opponents of the ballot measure Tuesday announced that seven former 
Florida Supreme Court justices have come out against the ballot 
measure authorizing widescale medical marijuana.

"The Legislature has already legalized a strain of low-THC marijuana 
for medical use that is not smoked," said former Justice Kenneth 
Bell. "Any expansion of marijuana use should reflect further 
development in medical knowledge and have a carefully limited scope, 
which Amendment 2 does not do."

Despite a seemingly endless stream of alternate proposals being 
offered at public hearings on the proposed regulatory structure for 
the pot low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces 
the marijuana high, state officials have said they are focused on 
finalizing the rule now on the table.

That goal had looked threatened by dozens of new concerns raised in a 
19-page letter recently sent to the Health Department from a lawyer 
for a key legislative committee, with some questions going to the 
heart of determining who will be allowed to make medical marijuana 
available beginning in January at five growth and sales centers 
around the state.

The Legislature last spring said these centers would be run by 
nurseries in business at least 30 years with an inventory of at least 
400,000 plants. But the proposed rules said nurseries could contract 
with other companies and financial backers, as long as the grower 
owned 25 percent of the business.

After the legislative committee challenged the department's authority 
to create that standard, the retooled rule released Tuesday makes 
changes assuring that a "nurseryman ... will serve as the operator" 
of the production and dispensary operation.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom