A lottery is out, a scorecard is in. State lawmakers are also out, for the time being, and a 21-day public comment period is in. And for some state nurseries that want in, caution is out as a new framework for Charlotte's Web tries to pass another round of legal and public scrutiny.
A 12-member panel met Wednesday and Thursday to reshape rules to grow, harvest and sell Charlotte’s Web, a non-euphoric brand of marijuana. "We came in with an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate and create a complete set of rules in just two days, and we did so,” Patricia Nelson, director of the Office of Compassionate Use, said Friday.
If the final rules stand up, health officials could select five growers – one each in five regions – as early as April. Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough and Charlotte counties are part of the Southwest Region. Pinellas is in the Central region. Growers would have 210 days to bring Charlotte’s Web to market, according to the plan.
The panel included nursery reps, patient advocates and a Colorado grower who co-invented Charlotte’s Web. The new draft states “the proposed rule is not expected to require legislative ratification.” A three-week public comment period started Friday. A public hearing will be called only if requested in writing.
"This rule brings us much closer to providing this product safely and efficiently to children and families dealing with intractable epilepsy and patients dealing with advanced cancer," Nelson said.
The price – and risk – will be steep. A $5 million bond is due 10 days after a grower’s winning scorecard is approved. Banks are wary because all forms of marijuana are illegal under federal law. Nursery advocates reportedly sought an ownership setup that shielded traditional growing operations from potential marijuana setbacks.
The scorecard is vast, including prowess in cultivation, location for patients, security systems, retail know-how, medical experience and assets.
Joel Stanley, from Colorado, invented Charlotte’s Web in 2011 by crossbreeding a strain of pot with industrial hemp. He told the panel Florida deserved higher-minded growers.
“I would encourage not only the people in this room but the people who are considering applying … to consider putting your cream of the crop on the line because it’s a really amazing thing you will get to do,” Stanley said. “It’s a lot better than growing tomatoes or hydrangeas or whatever the hell you’re growing.”
Lawmakers approved the “Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act” in June 2014.
Hasta la vista