Florida’s medical marijuana law, section 381.986, Florida Statutes, also known as “Charlotte’s Web,” saw some interesting developments in the last two weeks. Florida’s Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for adopting regulations governing the cultivation, dispensing and medical use of low-THC cannabis. The Florida Medical Cannabis Association, and two nurseries in Florida, Costa Farms, LLC and Plants of Ruskin, Inc., have each filed petitions challenging the DOH’s proposed rules. The petitions allege that the proposed rules do not comply with Florida law. For example, Costa Farms, LLC cites the lottery system currently proposed to select a licensee among qualified applicants, and contends that the rules will not ensure a merit-based system for selecting a licensee from among multiple applicants.
Regardless of the outcome of the challenges, one thing is for sure: rule challenges will delay the process of rule adoption, which will in turn delay the point at which Florida has licensed, operating companies cultivating, processing and dispensing medical marijuana. Specifically, the rule challenges stay the finalization and filing of the rules for adoption. First, the matter must be referred to an administrative law judge, which should occur within 10 days of the petition’s filing. Then, the judge to which the matter was referred is supposed to hear the petition within 30 days. Finally, the judge should render a final order within 30 days of the hearing. Although it is possible, therefore, that the petitions will be ruled upon by mid-November, the parties may agree to extensions of time, or extensions of time may be granted for good cause.