‘Pot Trucks’ Coming To Florida?

July 31, 2014

Florida pot dispensers could truck their product to patients, under a revised rule proposed by health regulators in advance of a workshop Friday about the state’s move to a limited type of medical marijuana.

The latest plan also would loosen restrictions on who could own the dispensing organizations. Nurseries with only one-quarter ownership of pot distribution businesses would be eligible for licenses, according to the draft rule released late Tuesday by the state Department of Health’s Office of Compassionate Use.

Despite numerous complaints expressed by nursery owners, lobbyists and others at a rule-making workshop earlier this month, health officials aren’t backing away from a lottery-based system to choose the recipients of five licenses, a competition drawing operators and investors from around the world.

The state has until Jan 1. to come up with the regulations regarding a strain of marijuana, authorized by the Republican-dominated Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year, that purportedly does not get users high but can alleviate life-threatening seizures in children with severe epilepsy. Under the new law, patients who suffer from severe muscle spasms or cancer would also be eligible to get cannabis that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD, if their doctors order it.

The law restricts dispensary applicants — who would grow, process and distribute the low-THC product, usually a paste or oil — to nurseries that have done business in Florida for at least 30 years and grow 400,000 plants or more. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has identified at least 55 nurseries that currently meet the criteria.

Nursery owners have been bombarded by offers from investors and operators eager to cash in on the state’s newest regulated industry. Rumors are rampant about nurseries that are demanding millions from potential partners or growers who are being offered money to stay on the sidelines. Many of those interested in “Charlotte’s Web,” a low-THC strain named after a Colorado girl, are hoping to get started in the pot business now with an eye on a proposed constitutional amendment going before voters in November that would allow doctors to order “traditional” medical marijuana for certain patients.

In the meantime, eligible nursery operators are pairing up with lobbyists and lawyers as they wade into turf unfamiliar to even the most sophisticated regulatory experts.

The law allows one dispensing organization in each of five regions around the state. It also allows the dispensing organizations to have “an infrastructure reasonably located to dispense low-THC cannabis to registered patients statewide or regionally as determined by the department.”

At the rule-making workshop earlier this month, health officials heard that just five locations would be inadequate to meet patients’ needs.

The new draft rule would allow dispensing organizations to deliver 30-day supplies of the medical marijuana derivative directly to patients. Potential operators are divided on the transportation issue.

“An infrastructure cannot be a truck. An infrastructure is a place,” said Louis Rotundo, a lobbyist who represents the Florida Medical Cannabis Association, a coalition of growers, investors and others interested in the pot business.

The proposed rule may also mean that dispensing organizations can transport their product statewide.

Giving dispensers the ability to distribute statewide as the law permits is critical, said Ron Watson, a lobbyist who is consulting for a group of former pharmaceutical executives who want one of the five licenses.

“A regional distribution system has no checks and balances and will punish the patient through cost and availability. A patient should be able to choose the best medicine regardless of where it is grown,” said Watson, who also represents the Florida Medical Cannabis Association.

The proposed rule also would restrict dispensaries from opening near schools, day-care centers, churches and public parks, which Rotundo said is too far-reaching.

“Why should they not be allowed to open as if they were any other drug store in the jurisdiction? They’re dispensing a medicine and certainly a medicine much less dangerous than every pharmacy carries. I’m not following the logic of this,” said Rotundo, who also represents several municipalities.

The latest version of the rule also restricts nurseries to applying in only one region, meaning that at least five nurseries would be able to participate in the industry. Growers are forging partnerships in some areas of the state.

And the proposed rule also addressed some concerns that potential owners expressed earlier this month regarding a lack of clarity about a $5 million performance bond required by the law. Under the draft rule, a condition of the bond would be that the money would be used to destroy all of a dispensing organization’s pot if the dispensary loses its license or chooses not to renew it. The condition of the bond may help potential businesses secure funding from investors or even banks.

Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat who was instrumental in getting the low-THC measure passed, said she was pleased that health officials took some of the concerns expressed at the last meeting into consideration.

But Edwards said the “million dollar question” regarding pot’s future in Florida remains unresolved — how the original plants, seeds or tissue culture will get into the hands of growers. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

University of Florida scientists recently revealed the school would not participate in research — the law contains $1 million for the university to study the effect of low-THC, high-CBD marijuana on epileptic children — because it could lose millions of dollars in federal grants.

“I equate it to the ‘what came first the chicken or the egg’ question. In Florida, we are trying to figure out what comes first —the low-THC cannabis plant or the Charlotte’s Web medicine?” Edwards said.

Kerry Herndon, owner of Kerry’s Nursery in Apopka, blasted health officials for keeping the lottery provision in the proposed rule.

“It’s a disaster for the patient population. You’re making medicine for sick children. So it’s like anybody at random within the pool and not the most qualified? Really?” said Herndon, whose nursery is eligible for one of the licenses and who is interested in pursuing one.

Health officials are doing the best they can to meet “a very aggressive timeline” set by the Legislature, said Sen. Rob Bradley, one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We have told them that they need to produce a rule by Jan. 1, 2015, and they need to come up with a system whereby we can get this in the hands of the parents of the suffering children. I trust the department to come up with a practical way to get Charlotte’s Web in the hands of these suffering families,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said.

by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida


8 Responses to “‘Pot Trucks’ Coming To Florida?”

  1. grandma on August 3rd, 2014 7:11 pm

    I have a granddaughter with epilepsy. Drs have not found a medication to control her seizures. Medications for seizures have so many side effects it is hard for her to function properly. The seizures interferes with her school and other activities. Even, an implant to stimulate the nerve is not effective. Why not treat charlottes web the way other plant medications are treated. Let’s hurry up and get this all figured out and get it available for our children.

  2. Perdido fisherman on August 1st, 2014 3:57 am

    @Bob C, Well said, I too think that is a good idea.

    @john The drugs the FDA has approved to treat these kids do NOT work, that is the problem and the reason the legislature is allowing the cannabinoids in marijuana to be used to treat these kids, because it does work.

  3. BT on July 31st, 2014 9:54 am

    I like the idea of pot trucks.

    They can convert old ice cream trucks and drive around playing Bob Marley songs from the loudspeakers.

  4. me on July 31st, 2014 7:38 am

    @john – You sound like you are for the children. If that is the case, you would know that the medications already available are not good for the children. In fact, I would go as far as to say almost all of medications prescribed today are harmful in some way or another. So why not let medicine that was put here by God be used?

    GENESIS 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

    Marijuana is a seed bearing plant. The only thing stopping us from enjoying Gods gift is the laws of the land in which God says to obey the laws of the land so until that plant is legal only then can we enjoy it and use it for what it was put on earth for. God did not put Lortab and codeine etc. on earth for us.

    Just my opinion.

  5. Richard on July 31st, 2014 7:18 am

    Just like all drug companies ,the money is in the treatment, not the cure. Imagine the lost profits and lost jobs if the cures ever got out.

  6. 429SCJ on July 31st, 2014 7:11 am

    A rolling store sounds like a brilliant idea to me. I remember when I was a boy, for a quarter you could get a big RC cola, a huge Zero candy bar and a pack of 20 firecrackers.

    Yes the opportunist are lining up at the trough, and this lottery business sounds like a bunch of skullduggery.

    @Growers, If you don’t like the way the legislature is running things, well then just go rouge and say the heck with the legislature. It works for the commander and chief.

  7. Bob C on July 31st, 2014 7:00 am

    Good Grief……
    Why all the Legislative hissie flap over how to dispense the medical marijuana.?

    Drug stores / pharmacies in every town dispense highly controlled medications every day per the doctor’s orders for their patients.
    Why not do the same thing to dispense the medical marijuana.?
    This is not Rocket Pot folks….this is to ease the pain and suffering of our citizens.

    Obviously, because it is considered illegal Federal Postal Laws would forbid the distribution of medical pot to the patient’s mailbox.

    One could say that there is a near steady stream of “Pot Trucks” on the highways every hour of every day….they are just not regulated by anyone except “Dealers”. Thanks to the LEO a few are stopped each day.

  8. john on July 31st, 2014 6:45 am

    Just like a bunch of buzzards waiting in line to cash in, under the guise of sick children, I wonder how many politicians and lawyers pushing this thing have ever visited a children’s home. This is not about children with epilepsy, its about money and pot, if it were truely about children the focus would be more on a cure, and also there are already medications available for these children.

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