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Health officials outline their plan for writing medical marijuana rules



Florida health officials are taking the very earliest steps toward rolling out rules to let patients use medical marijuana after state lawmakers failed to resolve the issue during the final hours of their session earlier this month.

The Department of Health on Thursday published a notice outlining special procedures for them to implement Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote last November and allows patients with a list of conditions including HIV/AIDS, cancer and PTSD to access medical cannabis.

DOH faces a quickly approaching deadline of July 3 to write the rules governing what could within a few years be a $1 billion medical marijuana industry.

It's not clear when DOH plans to publish draft rules. But under the procedure published Thursday, officials have to give 15-day notice before adopting them. It also allows for a three-day public comment period.

Interestingly, the department declares that because Amendment 2 is now part of the Florida Constitution -- as opposed to state law -- the normal rules for passing regulations do not apply. And they have outlined new procedures that do not include any path for appeal or a rules challenge.

Still, DOH could end up with instructions from the Legislature. There is a growing movement to bring lawmakers back in a special session, motivated in part by concerns that DOH may not be best suited to implement the will of voters.

Among the department's critics: Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who were responsible for negotiations over medicall marijuana during session.

"I obviously support a special session," Rodrigues told the Times/Herald earlier this month. "This is something that's best done by the Legislature rather than leaving it to the Department of Health."

Photo: Monica Herndon (Tampa Bay Times)