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Health News Florida

State Pot Panel Faces Turnover

State health officials on Thursday announced another shake-up in the effort to get Florida's medical-marijuana industry off the ground.

Less than a month after being appointed to a three-member team that will choose five nurseries to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana and derivative products, accountant Ann Filloon is stepping down.

Filloon "has decided to remove herself from the panel to focus on her duties as the fiscal unit director with the Division of Children's Medical Services," according to a news release issued by the Department of Health.

Filloon is being replaced by Ellyn Hutson, an accountant with a bachelor's degree in animal science from Clemson University and a master's degree in accounting from Florida State University, according to the release.

Hutson joins Christian Bax, executive director of the department's Office of Compassionate Use, and Patricia Nelson, a special adviser to Gov. Rick Scott. Nelson was Bax's predecessor and shepherded creation of the industry's preliminary guidelines, including the applications from growers.

Under a rule created earlier this year, the selection committee must be comprised of the chief of the Office of Compassionate Use, an accountant and a member of the governor's Statewide Drug Advisory Policy Council appointed by the state surgeon general, who also serves as the secretary of the Department of Health. Twenty-four nurseries --- which have joined forces with consultants, investors and out-of-state pot growers --- are vying to be one of five "dispensing organizations" with licenses to grow cannabis that is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD.

Parents of children with a severe form of epilepsy pushed the Legislature last year to approve the low-THC cannabis, believing it can end or dramatically reduce life-threatening seizures.

Doctors who have undergone special training were supposed to begin ordering the low-THC products for eligible patients --- those with cancer or severe muscle spasms --- on Jan. 1. But legal challenges and a judge's decision last year that tossed out health officials' first stab at a rule put implementation of the law far behind what lawmakers envisioned.

Health officials have not said how long the committee will take to evaluate the applications, which include at least four in each of five regions of the state.

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