52ºF

Who will be licensed to grow medical marijuana?

It could be a glimpse into Florida's future .. California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, is now seeing a dramatic increase in HOME DELIVERY of pot to patients. Mobile marijuana businesses now number in the hundreds in and around Los Angeles. This November, you will have the chance to decide whether to legalize wider use of the drug for health problems here in our state.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If you are a patient using medical marijuana, do you want it grown by the most qualified grower, or the luckiest? That's the argument being played out in a hearing room at the state Capitol.

The administrative judge could order the state back to the drawing board, or could approve the plan for a lottery, which would likely lead to more legal action.

The rule adopted by the state to license growers of medical marijuana calls for five nurseries to be selected by a lottery. All have to have at least 30 years experience, but experience at what is one of the questions being asked in the administrative challenge

Ruskin grower, Robert Tornello, testified that experiences could vary widely, affecting the quality of the final product.

"These guys have tomato fields and farms where they're just growing plants out there," Tornello said. "They don't have greenhouse facilities, or they may not actually have experience growing anything to the level food would require as far as safety issues."

The challenge was brought by a large grower and the Florida Medical Cannabis Association.

"If you have measurable criteria, you don't need a lottery. That's our point," said Louis Rotundo, with the association.

The Department of Health's general counsel stood by the lottery during hours of testimony.

When asked if everyone who will be qualified will go into the lottery, and if no one not qualified will go into the lottery, Jennifer Tschetter, the department general counsel, said, "That's correct. The rule speaks for itself."

The argument being made against selecting a marijuana grower based on the lottery is that you'll end up with the luckiest grower, not the best.

"Government should not select minimally qualified, they should select -- and I think the Legislature contemplated they would select the best -- the most superior qualified person," said Steve Turner, Costa Farms attorney.

Each challenge threatens to delay the licensing and potentially the delivery of low-TCH marijuana to qualified patients.