Hearings have concluded in a nursery’s bid to be the seventh medical marijuana grower in the state. Meanwhile nurseries approved earlier in the process are beginning to harvest their first crops.
It’s been more than two years since medical marijuana legislation passed the state legislature. Under that measure, lawmakers expected treatments to be available at the beginning of 2015. But just outside a Tallahassee court room earlier this month Holley Moseley explained families are still waiting.
“Nothing has come as of yet,” she said, “You know we were told January 1 of 2015, oil would be available to patients and we’re still waiting. And so I’m here for my daughter and all the other kids throughout this state who deserve the same opportunity kids in Colorado have to try this treatment.”
Her daughter RayAnn suffers from intractable epilepsy. Moseley’s activism on behalf of her daughter led her to the capitol. It also connected her with a Colorado group called Realm of Caring—a nonprofit started by the people behind a low-THC strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web. Moseley now heads up the Florida chapter, and they’ve partnered with a Jacksonville grower called Loop’s Nursery.
“One of the reasons Loop’s Nursery was selected as a partner was because they have greenhouse space they’re ready to go they can start growing immediately,” Moseley said.
Joel Stanley is one of the Colorado growers who developed the Charlotte’s Web strain. He says under the partnership, Loop’s Nursery will be able to cultivate Charlotte’s Web in Florida.
“Trademark, standard operating procedures, everything that goes into the product known as Charlotte’s Web,” he says. “We license it to folks that we believe can do what we do in Colorado and will do what we do the same way we do it in Colorado.”
The only problem? Loop’s wasn’t awarded a license by Florida’s Department of Health. That’s why Moseley and her husband have traveled from Gulf Breeze to Tallahassee and Joel Stanley has flown in from Colorado. They’re testifying on behalf of Loop’s bid to get its hands on a license.
Stanley’s new company—CW botanicals—likely stands to make good money licensing Charlotte’s Web to Loop’s, but he claims the partnership is based on competence rather than profits.
“We looked at every nursery in the state of Florida and don’t think we didn’t look real hard real good for infrastructure, for knowledge, and then of course we get down into the hearts of people,” Stanley says. “Are they willing to do what we do, are they willing to honor the right type of pricing for these families and things like that.”
“We look into all of it.”
Whether Loop’s will join the six other licensed growers is now in the hands of the judge. Meanwhile Christian Bax head of the office of compassionate use says each one of those nurseries has gotten the go ahead to begin growing cannabis.
“All six of the dispensing organizations in the state of Florida have been given authority to cultivate marijuana,” Bax said at the Loop’s Nursery hearing. “The majority of those actually have plants in the ground are growing cannabis at this point.”
One of them—Surterra Therapeutics—has already harvested its first crop. Once Health officials give them permission to begin extracting oil, Surterra says they’ll have treatments ready in just a few weeks.
For families like the Moseley’s it’s been a long time coming. But Richard Blau, an administrative lawyer with the firm Gray Robinson, sympathizes with the Department’s task.
“It’s tough to create something out of nothing,” he says, “and when you think about it what the people that are involved in this issue are trying to do is create an industry in a responsible fashion, with appropriate oversight of a regulated product, that is inherently controversial, but also is perceived to be of great importance to a medical population that is apparently in desperate need of it.”
The current nurseries have a legally mandated timeline—from the point of cultivation authorization they have 210 days to complete a finished product. That means for two nurseries, treatment should be ready by September, but nursery and health officials are optimistic it could be ready sooner.