Florida’s Office of Compassionate Use held its final hearing Friday in Tallahassee to discuss rules for low-THC marijuana. Nick Evans reports implementing the law passed in the last legislative session has not gotten easier.
Florida’s legislature passed a law in the last session allowing the use physican-directed low-THC marijuana. But the path toward implementing the law has been rocky. The Office of Compassionate Use, or OCU, has crafted proposed rules that have been met with push back in two previous workshops. And a week ago, an oversight group made up of state lawmakers chimed in with a strongly worded letter nearly as long as the rules themselves. At Friday’s meeting the OCU went through its proposed rule point by point to hear more public comment. Anthony Ardizzone from Martin County nursery Ed Miller and Son says distribution presents a major problem.
“Bringing people to my grow facilities to buy it is an absolutely ridiculous method,” Ardizzone says. “You know you don’t go to Eli Lilly to get your medication, you go to a pharmacy”
But Ardizzone doesn’t think pharmacies are the answer, either. Instead, he says distribution should happen in a clinical setting – kind of like when you visit a primary care physician.
“You tell a staff member who you are, they clear your name through the compassionate use registry, we know at that point what medicine you’re supposed to receive, you walk into another small room like you were going to be examined, a staff member comes in with your medicine, you sign off that you’ve received the exact prescription that you came in for, and you’re done,” Ardizzone says.
Seems simple. But part of the problem may be the law. Legislators limited the amount of facilities that can distribute non-euphoric marijuana to five, but they also define these dispensing organizations as the ones responsible for cultivation as well. Lawmakers further limited the potential applicants to licensed nurseries in operation for thirty or more years, but also require reasonable statewide accessibility and availability. The OCU has tried to expand access by allowing dispensing organizations to transport medication, but political strategist Ron Watson says this might not be enough.
“Because what the law says is that it has to be reasonable statewide accessibility and availability as necessary, and I’m not sure with a state that’s our size, if you only have five facilities in the entire state, that you’re ever going to meet the reasonably located and available,” Watson says.
But Holley Moseley, the Florida mother who successfully lobbied lawmakers like Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz to pass the so-called Charlotte’s Web bill, says it’s important to keep in mind what motivated the legislation in the first place.
“I don’t think you can understand unless you live a parent’s daily life, and watch your child, and have that feeling of hopelessness, and to know that there’s a product in Colorado that’s working and just because of our zip code we can’t have access to it,” Moseley says. “So I just hope that everyone understands and has that in the back of their minds why we’re going through this process.”
Charlotte’s Web is a non-euphoric hemp oil produced by Colorado-based firm Realm of Caring. It’s named after Charlotte Figi whose epilepsy was first treated by the drug. Her mother Paige was on hand.
“Supporting this process and being involved is very important because, you see, this room is filled with business today, and the face of this was the desperation of the families and these children,” Figi says.
The OCU is required to have rules in place by January 1 next year. And while it seems likely they’ll have rules in time it remains to be seen just how effective they’ll be.