Two years after Florida lawmakers legalized a low-potency strain of medical marijuana shown to treat severe epilepsy, the drug still isn't available. The situation prompted a challenge of the state's nursery licensing policy that reached a Tallahassee courtroom Wednesday.

  • Loop's Nursery appealing rejection of its application for license
  • Nurseries who were granted licenses do not have product available
  • Health officials fear potential precendent set by reversal

Gainesville-based Loop's Nursery is appealing the Florida Department of Health's rejection of its application to grow the marijuana strain, popularly known as 'Charlotte's Web.' The department made five grower licenses available, awarding them to the nurseries that scored highest on multi-pronged evaluations.

The winning nurseries, however, are months away from bringing product to an underserved market.

"They're not growing. They're still not growing. They don't even have greenhouse space completed," Holley Moseley said during a break at Wednesday's hearing, held at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.

Moseley's daughter, RayAnn, suffers from severe epilepsy. Her story helped convince legislators and Gov. Rick Scott to approve the Charlotte's Web law in 2014. Now, with Loop's Nursery promising a speedy harvest should it win its appeal, Moseley thinks an exception should be granted.

"There are kids waiting for treatment that deserve treatment, and the Department of Health is fighting the nursery who's saying 'we're ready; we can do this; we can make this happen now.' That's what this is all about," Moseley said.

Health officials, however, warn that disregarding the state's licensing policy and allowing another nursery to enter the medical marijuana business could create a dangerous precedent. If voters approve Amendment 2 in the fall, which would legalize full-strength medical marijuana, the new law could then draw on the regulatory framework being applied to Charlotte's Web.
"They're locked in. They're locked in by law," Eduardo Lombard, a lawyer for the Department of Health, told the hearing officer overseeing the nursery appeal case. "Whether they like the fact they're locked in or not is not the point. The point is we are done."

The Department of Health has estimated the Charlotte's Web strain of medical marijuana should become available in Florida by September.