NURSERY ALLEGES IMPROPER DISQUALIFICATION OF APPLICATION FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA LICENSE
Tallahassee, Fla. – On December 11, 2015 San Felasco Nurseries, Inc. filed a protest against the Florida Department of Health for “mistakenly disqualifying their application for the medical marijuana license in the Northeast Region of Florida.” According to a press release by the company, San Felasco Nurseries received the highest score out of all applicants in the Northeast Region and therefore should have been awarded the license. The protest points out the DOH did not follow the stated rules and procedures during the application review process and erroneously disqualified San Felasco Nurseries.
Allegations made by San Felasco Nurseries
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- After San Felasco Nurseries’ application received the highest score, their application was mistakenly disqualified for what the DOH believed was a Level 2 background discrepancy.
- The DOH failed to give San Felasco the right to timely appeal the Level 2 discrepancy or to adjust their application to correct the discrepancy prior to scoring. Numerous other applicants were given the opportunity to correct discrepancies during the pre-scoring review process.
- The Level 2 background check discrepancy did not constitute a disqualifying offense and even if it did, since the employee record in question was expunged, it was not eligible to be a disqualifying offense. Additionally, the employee in question is not a manager and therefore he is not required to submit to or pass a Level 2 background check.
- San Felasco Nurseries provided the DOH with the requested information to address the discrepancy. The DOH led San Felasco Nurseries to believe the discrepancy was no longer an issue and advised their application was considered complete and no further information was needed.
- After deeming the application complete, the DOH moved San Felasco Nurseries’ application on to the scoring process. The official DOH rule clearly states no application will be scored unless qualification issues (including obtaining all Level 2 clearances) have been successfully obtained. The fact that the DOH moved San Felasco Nurseries’ application on to the scoring process clearly establishes that the discrepancy with their application had been properly addressed and was no longer an issue. By contrast, four other applicants were disqualified and none of them moved on to the scoring process.
- San Felasco Nurseries was the highest-ranked applicant in the Northeast Region, but the DOH awarded the license to Chestnut Hill Tree Farm LLC, who came in 2nd place and held an advantageous position on the rule-making committee, a position they reportedly obtained under false pretenses. Five out of approximately 100 qualified nurseries served on the rule-making committee and four out of those five nurseries were awarded a license.
- Additionally, contrary to statutory requirements, Chestnut Hill Tree Farm LLC has not been in business for 30 consecutive years and therefore their application should have been disqualified. San Felasco Nurseries’ top priority is to ensure patients with certain debilitating illnesses in Florida have the most qualified nurseries growing, cultivating and dispensing medical marijuana. The DOH was previously directed by an administrative law judge to abandon their original plan of a lottery system in favor of adopting a merit based process to ensure the best and most qualified nurseries would prevail. San Felasco Nurseries was identified as the most qualified application through a rigorous scoring process and the patients of Florida deserve the best.
San Felasco Nurseries believes these procedural errors by the DOH, while presumably not intentional, led to their erroneous disqualification. By not following a fair and equal selection process, the DOH has created another delay in getting patients the medicine they need. This is the first time the DOH has undertaken such a process and it is understandable that mistakes can be made, but San Felasco Nurseries is hopeful the DOH can rectify the situation quickly so the best nursery, San Felasco Nurseries, can begin serving the patients of Florida without further delay.