Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Editorial: Time to get Charlotte's Web rules right

The election is over, and the new year will start Thursday with the non-euphoric marijuana oil called Charlotte’s Web still unavailable for the seriously ill waiting for the relief the drug could provide.
The election is over, and the new year will start Thursday with the non-euphoric marijuana oil called Charlotte’s Web still unavailable for the seriously ill waiting for the relief the drug could provide.
Published Dec. 29, 2014

The election is over, and the new year will start Thursday with the noneuphoric marijuana oil called Charlotte's Web still unavailable for the seriously ill waiting for the relief the drug could provide. Don't blame the administrative law judge who overturned the illogical state rules last month that would have chosen the growers of the newly legalized drug by lottery. Blame the foot-dragging by the Scott administration and the state Department of Health's foolish attempt to avoid controversy that only created more confusion and led to the judge's order.

The Health Department is back at it today in Orlando, where it will hold a workshop on a new attempt to create a regulatory system for growing, processing and distributing the drug. This time state officials have to create a system that chooses growers based on merit, a track record of growing plants for human consumption and the ability to produce a safe, quality product. More than 125,000 Floridians, including many sick children, are counting on the state to design a system that will enable them to legally use a drug with great potential to ease their pain.

That system was supposed to be in place by Thursday. Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature did the right thing last spring by embracing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 to legalize Charlotte's Web. The drug is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and contains high amounts of cannabidiol, an ingredient known for treating seizures, cancer and muscle spasms. The law allows only five nurseries around the state to grow and dispense the low-THC marijuana, and the Health Department was supposed to create a system this summer to enable that to be in place by now.

Instead, the effort was sidetracked by the state's proposal that the selection process for those growers take place by a lottery. About 75 Florida nurseries meet the state's minimum requirements to grow noneuphoric marijuana, which include being in business for 30 years and having a certification for the cultivation of more than 400,000 plants. With so much at stake, no wonder several potential growers sued over the idea that a lottery of chance could determine the winners and losers.

The Department of Health's new proposed rules will be unveiled at today's workshop. Besides the selection process, they are expected to address other issues the judge raised such as where the cultivation, processing and dispensing of the drug can take place. State legislators, who will hold committee meetings in January, also are eyeing changes to the law. The result is that no one can predict how the system eventually will work and when Charlotte's Web will become available to the patients who have been waiting for so long.

It is particularly important for the state to get this right, because the regulatory framework could serve as a model one day for more general use of medical marijuana. Some 57 percent of voters supported a constitutional amendment that would have legalized medical marijuana for much broader use. That was just short of the 60 percent approval needed, but the outcome sent a strong signal that this is another issue lawmakers should address. If the state can create a fair system for Charlotte's Web, that should make the responsible adoption of a broader medical marijuana law easier.