Florida Department of Health Challenges Medical Cannabis Ruling

What does it mean to be a medical marijuana operator? In Florida, that question is being taken up by the state Supreme Court.
Florida Department of Health Goes To Court Over Medical Cannabis Ruling

A Tampa-based company is challenging Florida’s decision to deny it a medical cannabis license, shining a light on an aspect of Florida’s medical marijuana law that critics contend unfairly precludes companies that should be able to get a license.

The company, Florigrown, had its application for a medical marijuana license rejected in 2017, not long after the constitutional amendment legalizing the treatment went in effect. The amendment legalizing medical marijuana was approved by more than 70 percent of Florida voters in 2016.

The reason why the company was stymied in its bid for a license: “vertical integration.” That’s a system established by the state’s medical marijuana law requiring operators to grow, process and sell its cannabis products.

From there, Florigrown took the matter to a county circuit court judge, who last year ordered the state to register the company as a medical marijuana business. Last year, the 1st District Court of Appeals upheld part of that order, saying that the vertical integration requirement conflicts with the inherently broad nature of the constitutional amendment.

Is the Application a Stunt?

Now, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is asking for a fresh opinion, this time from the state’s highest court. In a brief filed last week before the Florida Supreme Court, attorneys for DeSantis and the state Department of Health called Florigrown’s application for a license a “stunt.”

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, lawyers argued that the Florida legislature acted within its rights “when it created a broad regulatory scheme to implement the amendment, including regulations for the licensing and structure of (medical marijuana treatment centers),” and that “nothing in the amendment alters the Legislature’s power to make policy decisions related to the regulatory oversight of medical marijuana in Florida.”

The lawyers furthermore said Florigrown, which is partially owned by a strip clup operator named Joe Redner, sought to register itself as a medical marijuana operator a mere two weeks after the constitutional amendment went into effect.

“The company […] is run by a web video producer and owned by Joe Redner, neither of whom are botanists, pharmacists, physicians or have any professional experience or credentials in the medical field,” the state lawyers said in the brief, as quoted by the Tampa Bay Times.

They said Florigrown’s “stunt […] makes a mockery of all legal and regulatory procedures” related to the amendment.

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