State moves forward with medical marijuana despite legal challenges

State moves forward with medical marijuana despite legal challenges

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TALLASSEE, Fla. (NSF) – Florida health officials are holding to a deadline next month for the state’s first medical marijuana businesses to seek permission to begin growing non-euphoric cannabis, even with hearings in license challenges stacked up through mid-summer. Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said Monday that five dispensing organizations — selected by a three-member panel last year to grow, process and distribute low-THC marijuana — must submit requests for cultivation authorization by Feb. 7, the first deadline in a process more than a year behind schedule due to previous legal wrangling. But frustrated lawmakers who were instrumental in passage of a 2014 law that legalized low-THC marijuana for patients with severe muscle spasms or cancer are exploring options to speed up the process of getting the cannabis products on the market. Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley, whose committee is scheduled to get an update from the Department of Health on Wednesday, said he is "interested in creating an alternative administrative procedural system to deal with challenges" to the licenses already awarded by the agency. "This has gone on too long," he said, blaming the losing applicants for dragging out the process. Thirteen challenges to the licenses have been divided among five administrative law judges, with hearings in the cases slated from March through the end of July, according to documents filed with the Division of Administrative Hearings. None of the challengers has asked for an injunction to prevent the process from moving forward, and health officials are continuing with next month’s deadline, Gambineri said. But the agency’s decision to keep the process moving despite the possibility that the licenses could be overturned has created angst for winners and losers in the highly competitive medical marijuana arena in Florida, with millions of dollars in start-up and operational […]

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