Florida legalized medical cannabis in 2014 and began allowing qualified patients to access non-smoked, low-THC cannabis in January 2015. Another measure passed in 2017 created a more comprehensive regulatory framework for Florida’s medical cannabis industry. It also required that the state Department of Health issue new medical cannabis licenses as the number of qualified patients increased.
However, despite the fact that Florida now has more than 700,000 medical marijuana patients and should have granted another 22 medical marijuana licenses, regulators are yet to do so.
Earlier this month, an appeals judge chastised state health officials for the slow medical marijuana licensing process. Florida should have doubled its medical cannabis dispensers to keep up with the growing number of patients, the judge said, but the slow licensing process has left potential applicants “understandably frustrated.”
Florida First District Court of Appeals Judge Ross Bilbrey wrote in a ruling for an MMJ licensing case that nearly five years after lawmakers issued the emergency rule, Florida’s medical cannabis licensing window is still closed. Alongside two other justices, Bilbrey upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit from an applicant seeking a medical marijuana treatment center license.
Bilbrey noted that the Department of Health’s failure to reopen the license application window had left the defendant understandably frustrated. News Service of Florida reports that Florida currently has 22 medical marijuana operators, nearly half of the operators the state needs to cater to the swelling medical marijuana market. But since Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration took office, the application window has remained closed, leaving hopeful applicants hanging in limbo as they wait for the government to move forward.
Although the governor’s office said litigation over the 2017 law for the license application was the reason for the delay, the statute was finalized by a state Supreme Court decision last year. During a trial involving MedPure LLC more than two years ago, a Department of Health lawyer told Bilbrey that the health agency had halted the licensing process due to a lawsuit that was filed against the 2017 statute by Tamba-based company Florigrown.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit and upheld the 2017 law. Consequently, Bilbrey wrote that he understood why applicants such as Louis Del Favero Orchids Inc., the organization behind the lawsuit that was dismissed by a lower court, are frustrated. They have waited with bated breath for the state to open the licensing process to no avail.
Bilbrey and his colleagues may have sided with the Department of Health and upheld the lower court’s decision, but he called out regulators for dragging their feet in opening the medical marijuana licensing process. The judge has also questioned Department of Health officials on the license application delay on several occasions.
Such progressive court judgments are needed to nudge policymakers in different jurisdictions where licensed companies such as American Cannabis Partners operate to set up the necessary systems pivotal to meeting the needs of different consumer segments.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to American Cannabis Partners are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/ACP
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