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New Licensees Getting To Work On Marijuana Crops

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Although the Department of Health has awarded licenses to grow cannabis, patients could still be waiting more than nine months for treatment.  But one of the nurseries is hoping to push that timeline forward.

Even with licenses awarded, families waiting for low-THC marijuana could have to hold off until as late as September of next year.  Under state deadlines, the growers must begin cultivation in 75 days and have a finished product 210 days after that.  But Susan Driscoll of Alpha Foliage says they’re hoping to expedite the process—perhaps having cannabis ready sometime between April and June.

“We will need to get permission from the Department of Health to begin cultivation,” Driscoll says, “and then of course there’s a growth cycle for cannabis, so that can be anywhere from three to four months.”

Driscoll’s nursery will sell the finished product through a subsidiary called Surterra Therapeutics.  The company is planning stores in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.  But the path ahead may not be completely clear.  The Department’s licensing decisions can still be challenged in court, and with four of the five winning nurseries playing a major role in drafting the rules, that’s not out of the question. 

But regulated industries attorney Richard Blau says with two legal challenges already, it’s not very likely.

“From everything that’s been done, and all the information that’s been released, it looks like the process that was ultimately agreed upon—after judicial review, after rewriting—has been followed properly,” Blau says.  “So in that sense I would hope that there wouldn’t be any more legal challenges.”

Meanwhile Department officials are confident their process will stand up to scrutiny if it comes to that.  Driscoll says her operation is keeping its focus on the finish line.

“Well you know Surterra we’re going to be the positive, glass is half full company," Driscoll says.

"So we think this is a great step today for the state of Florida and the patients, and like I said, we’re going to work as quickly as possible to get the authority to cultivate, and then the authority to extract the product and then to distribute the product," she says.  "So we’re thinking positive and we’re pushing forward.”

Driscoll says her nursery has already begun construction on a facility to house the plants.  They hope to begin planting before the end of the year.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.