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Nursery Seeks License For Selling Medical Marijuana Products

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A nursery that lost out by four one-thousandths of a point to a competitor is now trying to persuade an administrative law judge that the Central Florida business deserves a highly sought-after license to sell medical marijuana products.

The hearing in the McCrory's Sunny Hill Nursery challenge opened Monday, nearly a year after health officials granted a Central Florida license to Lake Mary-based Knox Nursery.

McCrory's claims that it should have received the highest score in the region, and therefore should have been given one of the coveted "dispensing organization" licenses to grow, process and sell medical cannabis and derivative products.

But right out of the gate, Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth MacArthur granted the Department of Health's request to prohibit evidence regarding two key points: whether Knox posted a requisite $5 million bond in time, and whether Knox has delivered on what was promised in its application.

McCrory's lawyers had tried to offer evidence showing that Knox did not follow through on what was presented in its application, such as a failure to build greenhouses within 12 weeks of receiving a license.

But MacArthur said it would be an "uneven comparison" to allow evidence about what Knox did after submitting its application.

MacArthur also nixed McCrory's plans to show that Knox — which hired a helicopter to deliver its bond documents to the Department of Health on Dec. 9 — didn’t make a 5 p.m. deadline. At the time, representatives of Knox told The News Service of Florida the nursery's owner, Bruce Knox, squeaked in two minutes before the deadline.

But in his deposition in the case, Office of Compassionate Use Executive Director Christian Bax said that Knox did not post its bond before 5 p.m., according to court filings.

The rule governing the dispensing organization application process said that the requisite bonds must be posted "within 10 business days" of being approved for a license, or the license would be revoked and the runner-up would get approved.

A 2014 law ordered health officials to grant five "dispensing organization" licenses — one in each region of the state — to eligible applicants to grow, process and distribute medical marijuana products that are low in euphoria-inducing THC.

MacArthur will conduct a review of McCrory's and Knox's applications to determine which nursery's was superior.

Of the seven applicants in the Central region, a three-member panel gave McCrory's an aggregate score of 5.5417, just a fraction below Knox, which received a score of 5.5458.