FL: Lake Wales Company Makes Another Bid For A Medical Marijuana License

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Lake Wales – A company seeking to cultivate marijuana-based medicine in Lake Wales faces what might be its final chance at a state license in an administrative hearing beginning today.

GrowHealthy, which purchased a former mattress factory in Lake Wales in 2014, finished a close second in the central region when the Florida Department of Health issued licenses last November to five companies.

GrowHealthy, in partnership with McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery of Eustis, filed a challenge claiming it should have received the license for the region.

The company and its lawyers will make that argument during the hearing in Tallahassee. The hearing overseen by administrative law judge Elizabeth McArthur is scheduled to last through Oct. 28.

The state awarded the license for the central region to Knox Nursery of Winter Garden. A three-person panel assessed all of the applications and its collective scoring in 14 categories gave Knox the edge over GrowHealthy by less than a hundredth of a point.

The companies were vying for the right to produce cannabis oil under a program established by the Florida Legislature in 2014. The program allows limited production of medicine derived from marijuana plants bred to be low in THC, the compound that produces euphoric effects.

The state program restricts use of the medication to Floridians with severe epilepsy and cancer.

GrowHealthy and lawyers from the Tallahassee firm Greenberg Traurig have spent months preparing for the hearing, company CEO Don Clifford said last week. They will argue that the GrowHealthy consortium was much better qualified than Knox to begin production of cannabis oil.

We feel very well prepared and were confident that the Department of Health will recognize that ours was a superior application, Clifford said.

GrowHealthy had a 200,000-square-foot factory ready to begin production when it submitted its application. By contrast, Knox Nurserys material said the company would build a facility if awarded a license.

As of last week, Knox still hadn’t built a permanent structure and appeared to be using four tractor trailers for its cultivation, Clifford said.

Questions about Knoxs financial preparedness also have emerged. Bruce Knox, an owner of the nursery, made a frantic helicopter ride to Tallahassee in December to meet the deadline for posting a required surety bond.

Though news reports said Knox beat the deadline by two minutes, Clifford said the Department of Health has since acknowledged he actually submitted his bond after the 5 p.m. deadline.

Clifford said the GrowHealthy partnership will have about 10 people, including three lawyers, attending the hearing in Tallahassee. He said the company has enlisted expert witnesses to appear at the hearing.

Weve done a great deal of research, and weve had the opportunity to review Knoxs application so we can do a comparative against our application, Clifford said.

GrowHealthy’s application listed three other nurseries as partners: AgriStarts and Peckett’s, both in Apopka, and Eve’s Garden in Land O’ Lakes.

GrowHealthy previously challenged the states decision to award Knox a license on narrower grounds, arguing a judge made a decisive scoring error. McArthur rejected that bid for a license in a June hearing.

Florida voters will decide Nov. 8 on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow much broader use of marijuana in various forms for medical purposes. So even if the judge rejects GrowHealthys arguments in the hearing, the company could have another shot at a license to cultivate medical marijuana.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Lake Wales Company Makes Another Bid For A Medical Marijuana License
Author: Gary White
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Photo Credit: Nick Oza
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