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State Medical Pot Office Gets New Chief

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

State health officials on Wednesday announced that Christian Bax will replace Patricia Nelson as the new head of the Office of Compassionate Use, the agency charged with overseeing Florida's medical marijuana law.

Nelson's abrupt departure Friday sent ripples throughout the medical marijuana industry.

Nelson, who went back to work for Gov. Rick Scott in his executive office, left in the midst of the agency's evaluation of applications for "dispensing organization" licenses to nurseries that will grow, process and distribute cannabis that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD.

The low-THC cannabis is believed to end or dramatically reduce life-threatening seizures in children with rare forms of epilepsy.

Health officials were supposed to begin authorizing the dispensing organizations on Jan. 1, but the law has been mired in legal challenges.

Twenty-eight nurseries submitted applications, due July 8, for one of five licenses around the state.

Bax will be the third executive director of the office since its creation last year.

According to a press release issued by the Department of Health announcing his appointment, Bax holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Alabama and a law degree from Florida State University, as well as an MBA from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.

Bax also co-founded CBK Consulting, a "company with expertise in navigating medical marijuana regulations in Nevada and Washington," according to the release.

"The department is confident his educational and professional experience make him the right choice to get this product to children with intractable epilepsy and people with advanced cancer as safely and quickly as possible," the release said.