State regulators in Florida this week unveiled new rules for its medical marijuana program, a move that could result in a significant increase of the number of licensed businesses there.
Local news station FOX13 in Tampa reports that the state Department of Health on Monday “set in motion a process to issue up to 22 more medical-marijuana licenses, in a highly anticipated move that could double the size of Florida’s medical-cannabis industry,” while also announcing “an emergency rule that would make it far more expensive for marijuana operators to renew their licenses every two years, increasing the cost from roughly $60,000 to more than $1 million.”
The state agency issued an additional emergency rule that will change the financial commitment of would-be dispensary applicants. According to Florida Politics, “new entities wanting to operate in Florida’s lucrative medical marijuana market will be required to submit a $146,000 non-refundable fee to the state and submit an application that will be competitively reviewed by the state under a new emergency rule issued Monday.”
The outlet reports that the “initial application fee is more than double what licensees initially paid, but reflects the amount the state charged so-called Pigford applicants,” and that although “Gov. Ron DeSantis has been loath to increase operating costs for Florida businesses, he has complained in the past that he didn’t think the state charged enough for lucrative medical marijuana licenses.”
Florida Politics offers more background on what the change means for prospective applicants:
“It’s not only application costs that will increase. The state appears to also be increasing the costs for businesses to stay licensed. Medical marijuana treatment centers currently are required to pay $60,063. In determining the fee, the state will calculate how much money it spent regulating the industry over the previous two fiscal years and subtract from that the amount it collected in application fees. The sum will be divided by the number of medical marijuana treatment centers licensed.
“It’s not clear how much the state has spent regulating the industry over the last several years, but the Department of Health included a $6.2 million increase for the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) in its most recent budget request to state legislators. About half of that will be spent on hiring an additional 31 staff at its Tallahassee headquarters. It also wants to staff new regional offices. The other half will be spent on outside contractors that administer the seed-to-sale tracking systems; produce medical marijuana identification cards; conduct background screenings; review licenses; and provide outside legal work.”
More than 70% of Sunshine State voters approved an amendment in 2016 that legalized medical cannabis treatment for patients with qualifying conditions. In the six years since, state officials and lawmakers have continued to tweak and amend the new law.
Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Health “released a highly anticipated rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on products doctors can order for medical marijuana patients,” public radio station WUSF reported in August.
“The emergency rule sets a 70-day total supply limit of 24,500 mg of THC for nonsmokable marijuana and establishes dosage caps for different routes of administration such as edibles, inhalation and tinctures,” WUSF reported at the time. “The rule, which was sent to patients and doctors on Friday and went into effect Monday, also carries out a state law that imposed a 2.5-ounce limit on smokable marijuana purchases over a 35-day period. While the rule lays out limits for THC in nonsmokable products, the limit for whole flower and other products that can be smoked are based on weight. They are not based on levels of THC, the euphoria-inducing component in marijuana. And the emergency rule creates a process for doctors to seek an override for patients they believe need to exceed the limits. The rule does not identify a way for patients or doctors to appeal if the requests are denied.”
DeSantis, who won re-election last month, has faced pushback and pressure from advocates who want the state to remove the dosage limits.