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Marijuana Rules Become Issue In Budget Plan

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Laurie Avacado
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Lawmakers agreed Thursday to withhold more than $1.9 million from the Florida Department of Health until it implements rules necessary to carry out the state’s medical-marijuana laws.

But lawmakers have agreed to make it easier for the department’s “Office of Compassionate Use” by agreeing to exempt the rules from a requirement that they be ratified by the Legislature.

Department of Health General Counsel Nichole Geary sent a letter March 6 to the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee notifying staff about the state’s plan to take the “most expedient path forward” on a rule for medical-marijuana treatment centers.  But to ensure that the department could begin taking applications before the start of the 2019 legislative session, Geary asked that the Legislature to consider exempting the rules from the ratification requirement.

As part of the budget agreement reached Thursday, lawmakers agreed to specifically exempt from legislative ratification rules for medical-marijuana treatment centers and any other rules required to implement medical-marijuana laws.

The department published 10 rules this month meant to implement the state’s medical marijuana laws, including dealing with issues such as background screening requirements for staff members at treatment centers. Public meetings will be held on the rules in April.

Since 2010, any rule that increases the costs of doing business by more than $1 million over a five-year period requires legislative ratification. That can be easier said than done, though, as Gov. Rick Scott continues to await legislative approval of a rule mandating that assisted living facilities have generators on site and enough fuel for 72 hours.

The House has refused to ratify the rule noting citing concerns with the costs. Rules that aren’t ratified cannot go into effect.