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Medical Marijuana Comes To Florida

An Alachua County grower was among five selected by the Florida Department of Health to  grow and sell medical marijuana to patients who qualify under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.

The organizations selected will grow low-THC cannabis, the primary psychoactive chemical compound.

Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Alachua City was approved to grow medical marijuana for the state's northeast region, while Hackney Nursery in Quincy was approved as the grower for the northwest region. Know Nursery in Winter Garden was selected as the grower for the central region, Alpha Foliage in Homestead was selected for the southwest region and Costa Nursery Farms in Miami was tapped as the grower for the southeast region.

To qualify, patients must be added to the Compassionate Medical Cannabis registry by a doctor and suffer from advanced cancer or intractable epilepsy.

The department's actions are not related to Amendment 2 - the ballot amendment that narrowly failed last November. It would have allowed growers to produce a broader range of strains of medical marijuana.

 The health department said in a press release the nurseries have 10 business days to post a $5 million performance bond to secure their nomination.

If a selected nursery fails to meet the deadline, the nursery with the next highest score would be selected from the 28 applicants.

To be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana, doctors need to complete an 8‐hour course offered by either the Florida Medical Association or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. The course focuses on the proper use of low-THC cannabis, relevant state and federal laws on the possession of the substance, and the contraindications.

“There was a quite scrupulous criteria to apply for a license,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl, lobbyist for the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

Only Florida-based nurseries in business for at least 30 years qualified. They also needed to prove to be able to grow a minimum of 400,000 plants, Biehl, whose firm represented three of the applicants, said.

“Four of five of the winners today were represented on the negotiating rules committee which was established by the department on January,” he said.

According to the health department, nurseries have 75 days after the initial nomination to request cultivation authority and 210 days after receiving the authorization to begin growing the low-THC cannabis.

Sofia is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org