Medical marijuana entrepreneurs hope to influence Florida regulators

Florida regulators meet in Tallahassee to discuss rules for medical marijuana

MIAMI - Florida regulators met in Tallahassee Monday to begin the process of figuring out new rules for marijuana growers and store proprietors.

The only medical marijuana allowed on the shelves in Florida is the strain of "Charlotte's Web," which is intended to help patients who suffer from seizures without them having to experience a high.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved it. But regulators had a Department of Health's 16-page report of proposed rules to implement the legislation Gov. Rick Scott signed effective June 16.

Setting up the regulatory system for cultivation and distribution in Florida will take time. Nonetheless, the Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas reported that Tallahassee''s most prominent lobbyists as well as growers from Israel, Colorado and California were at the meeting in Tallahassee Monday.

Regulators plan to issue five licenses to commercial nurseries that have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years. The nurseries' capability is set at 400,000 plants.

Regulators also plan to select the growers through a lottery system. The applicants selected will have to post a $5 million bond and pay $150,000 for a license. The state also plans to set up a "compassionate use registry" of patients with prescriptions without compromising privacy.

Among the many issues discussed was that regulators still need to identify the source of the initial supply of seeds and seedling licensees, said Peter Schorsch, of The Saint Peters Blog. 

In a growing industry, regulators from state to state were having to consider balancing issues of product quality, accessibility for patients with a legitimate need, public safety and business profitability.

Regulators in some states have already created licensing systems for growing, selling, inspecting and taxing the product.

The District of Columbia and 23 other states have laws allowing some form of medical marijuana. While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the medical marijuana bill Monday, Washington issued retail licenses.

Officials expect to have more than 300 pot shops in Washington, and prices were expected to reach $25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales. Although more than 2,600 people applied to become licensed growers, fewer than 100 have been approved.

The size of the marijuana medical industry in Florida is still uncertain, but The National Cannabis Industry Association estimates it will be about $785 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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