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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Health officials wrap up week of hearings on marijuana

Department of Health officials listen to public comment at the final rulemaking hearing for new medical marijuana rules Thursday in Tallahassee.

MICHAEL AUSLEN | Times/Herald

Department of Health officials listen to public comment at the final rulemaking hearing for new medical marijuana rules Thursday in Tallahassee.

9

February

The Florida Department of Health’s fifth and final hearing on new medical marijuana rules may have been its most sparsely attended, but those who did show up largely spoke with one voice.

Not all speakers presented the same wish list, but many — particularly hopeful cannabis patients and their caregivers — expressed a handful of hopes with the new rules DOH must put in place by this summer.

The highlights:

* Don’t require doctors have a 90-day relationship with a patient.
* Allow “whole-plant use” so patients aren’t limited to oils, pills and proprietary vaping devices.
* Let doctors determine which patients would benefit from cannabis, rather than only allowing those with conditions enumerated in Amendment 2 or by the Board of Medicine.
* Give out additional licenses, and let companies specialize in growing, production, testing or dispensing, rather than forcing them to be vertically integrated.
* Find ways to keep costs down.

That’s a snippet of two hours of public testimony in Tallahassee on Thursday. The department made stops earlier this week in Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, an unusual move that officials say they were not required to do.

Additionally, the health department will continue accepting written comment through Friday at 5 p.m.

Now, Christian Bax, the director of the Office of Compassionate Use, is tasked with reading through comment and changing a rule his office proposed last month to implement Amendment 2 after 71 percent of voters approved it in November.

There is no timeline yet, but DOH does face a July deadline to write rules.

They’ll also likely face new direction from the state Legislature, which will almost certainly pass a medical marijuana bill during its session, which begins March 7.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2017 6:31pm]

    

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