Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don't leave Charlotte's Web sellers to chance

Florida lawmakers made a sound decision earlier this year when they legalized Charlotte's Web for the treatment of children with epileptic seizures. Now state regulators setting rules for who can grow and distribute the drug should establish a free-market competition rather than a lottery for businesses that meet the law's minimum qualifications for growers. Patients and parents of children who will use the drug should be able to do business with companies that will produce the safest, most efficacious products on the market — not simply the grower whose name is pulled out of a hat.

Lawmakers approved Charlotte's Web and Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law after months of lobbying by the parents of sick children who said the drug eased pain where traditional medicine had failed. The drug is a noneuphoric strain of marijuana that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It contains high amounts of cannabidiol, an ingredient known for treating seizures, cancer and Lou Gehrig's disease. The strain was developed in Colorado and named after a 7-year-old girl who had 300 epileptic seizures a day until she found relief using Charlotte's Web. Advocates say more than 125,000 children in Florida could be helped by Charlotte's Web.

In Florida, lawmakers placed significant restrictions on the drug's composition and on how it will be grown and distributed. The law calls for the creation of five dispensaries around the state. Growers must have been in business for 30 continuous years, pay for a $150,000 license and post a $5 million performance bond. Proposed rules from the Department of Health create five regions for the drug's distribution. If there is more than one applicant for a region, the department proposes a public lottery "to determine the order in which applications are considered." Companies chosen in the lottery will have 120 days to begin dispensing the products or lose their license.

The health department's lottery proposal is a wrongheaded move that leaves the important selection of growers and distributors of noneuphoric marijuana up to chance. Setting up a lottery may ultimately discourage qualified companies from participating in the selection process. If that happens, sick children and adults who are counting on robust, trustworthy medicine stand to lose the most. Just as in any free market, all qualified growers that meet the law's minimum standards should be able to compete for dispensaries. Regulators should make the time to thoroughly investigate each application and choose the best growers on their merits and potential.

Entrepreneurs around the country are already jockeying to secure a piece of what they see as the state's lucrative medical marijuana business. Many are complaining about the strict rules surrounding Charlotte's Web, particularly the requirement that growers have a continuous 30-year operations record. The state is right to hold the reins close during such an important product rollout, which if handled improperly could lead to abuse and mismanagement. But the licenses for growers should be awarded on merit, not chance.

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Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18