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Charlotte's Web Rule Debate Continues

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Safety, quality, and cost are priorities for Florida health officials as they create new rules for medical marijuana that doesn’t get the user high.

The Florida Department of Health held a public hearing in Orlando Tuesday after a judge rejected its initial rules for the so-called Charlotte’s Web program. Patients and doctors urged the committee to require research about what kinds of cannabis to grow.

And growers like Gary Hernden said regulating who and where to grow the plant is as important.

“Florida has a unique opportunity to be the first state to actually produce a consistent cannabinoid product,” he said. “It’s going to be a burden on a grower, but you know, if you don’t want to take on the burden, you shouldn’t get in the game.”

Seth Himan’s 9-year-old daughter Rebecca has seizures at least twice a week. He wants officials to create a set of rules as soon as possible.

“For all of these months and the lawsuit and the judges and the fighting going on over who’s going to grab the license and who has the potential, the patients are suffering,” Hinman said. “Every single day, their lives are at risk.”

The passage of the Charlotte’s Web bill last summer was supposed to put rules in place by January 1st for a strain of non-euphoric medical marijuana. Now, the Department of Health plans to have new rules before the legislative session in March.

Dozens spoke before a four-member panel during the hearing -- from parents of children who have epileptic seizures to cannabis growers like Anthony Artizone, who’s attended every hearing since July.

“The idea of getting this done quickly has always been on my mind, but it seems like we just can’t get there,” he said.

Renata Sago is a reporter with WMFE in Orlando. WMFE  is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.