Florida Set To Roll Out Non-Euphoric MMJ Strain

By McCarton Ackerman 06/01/15

Even though voters rejected a measure last November, patients may still get the medicine they need.

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Florida voters may have rejected medical marijuana at the end of last year, but a state judge has cleared the way for a non-euphoric strain of the drug to be accessible for medical purposes by the end of the year.

Last Wednesday, Tallahassee Judge W. David Watkins dismissed the final challenge to the rule developed by the Florida Department of Health. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar) led the charge for the legislation introduced last year, which called for those suffering from epileptic seizures, cancer, and other ailments to be given access to a “Charlotte’s Web” strain of low-THC marijuana.

The legislation was already approved last year, but has faced a series of legal challenges since then. Raymond Hogshead and Heather Zabinofsky, owners of Baywood Nurseries of Apopka, were the latest to challenge the rule on the grounds that the language in it was unfair and vague.

Eligible growers can start sending applications to the Florida Department of Health within the next three weeks. It could be mere months before these growers can start selling the strain to patients who are on the state’s “compassionate use registry.”

“Today's ruling allows the department to move forward with implementing the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, approved by the legislature in 2014,'' said the Department of Health in a statement. "The department remains committed to ensuring safe and efficient access to this product for children with refractory epilepsy and patients with advanced cancer. We are moving swiftly to facilitate access to the product before the end of the year.”

Only about 100 nurseries will be able to legally grow the strain. The new law will only grant licenses to nurseries that have operated in Florida for at least 30 years and currently grow at least 400,000 plants. These organizations will also have to demonstrate they have the financial means to stay in business for at least two years and cover the expensive start-up costs.

Last November, a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in the state failed to get approval from the necessary 60% of voters in order to pass. Millions of dollars were spent on both sides to support their side of the cause, with pro-medical marijuana group United for Care spending over $4 million and Drug Free Florida spending $6.34 million on their campaign.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.