Judge reprimands Florida health officials over marijuana licensing

Tallahassee – An appeals court judge this week accused Florida health officials of failing to honor promises to grant additional medical marijuana licenses as required by state law, ruling potential applicants to ” We are understandably frustrated,” he said, adding that he would offer legal recourse to the banned entrepreneurs.years of the cannabis market

As Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration continues to delay issuing new licenses, the shot across the bow of First Court of Appeals Judge Ross Bilbury has come. In Florida he has 22 medical marijuana operators.

A 2017 law that created a framework for the state’s medical marijuana industry required the Department of Health to grant new licenses as the number of licensed patients increased. At least 22 more licenses had to be issued to keep up with patient numbers. This doubles the number of operators in Florida as she does.

However, the DeSantis administration has put the application process on hold since the governor took office in 2019.

DeSantis’ office blamed the delay in litigation over the 2017 law, but the Florida Supreme Court last year ruled in favor of the law.

On Wednesday, Bilbury accused the state of holding back as he gave a concurring opinion on an appeal by Luis Del Fabero Orchids, which has long sought approval for facilities known as medical marijuana treatment centers.

Bilbrey and two other judges from the Tallahassee-based Court of Appeals, on the side of the Department of Health, upheld the lower court’s ruling dismissing the company’s case.

But Mr Bilbury has repeatedly questioned health ministry lawyers about the delay in receiving new permit applications, and the concurring opinion also blames health officials.

Del Favero said, “We are rightfully frustrated that the Department of Health has not been able to open an application window and issue licenses for medical marijuana treatment centers as required by the Florida Constitution.” Bilbury writes, referring to the 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Bilbrey pointed out that in September 2017, the Department of Health issued emergency regulations that set out the application process for potential medical marijuana operators.

“It has been almost five years since the Emergency Regulations were issued and the application window for the MMTC license remains closed,” said Bilbury, who was appointed by former Governor Rick Scott.

The judge also made assurances made more than two years ago by Department of Health attorneys during oral argument in a lawsuit brought by MedPure, LLC, when Bilbury was a member of another three-judge panel. pointed out.

A health department general counsel told Bilbury at the time that the agency had put the approval process on hold while Tampa-based Floregrown awaited the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the 2017 rule.

“We want to open that window. We will obtain licenses for many medical marijuana treatment centers,” said attorney Louise Saint Laurent. Panel March 23, 2020.

But the Florida Supreme Court ruled against Florigrown, upholding the medical marijuana law more than a year ago.”And the MMTC license application window remains closed.”

“If the department refuses to comply with its obligations under the Florida Constitution, a potential MMTC licensee who is breached is not without remedy,” he warned.

The judge suggested that potential applicants should consider filing a legal challenge to force health officials to open the application process.

“We respectfully suggest that the Department comply with MedPure’s statements in oral arguments — either open the application window referenced in the Emergency Regulations, or promulgate alternative regulations to allow MMTC license applications. Failure to do so may be necessary for potential licensees to “seek judicial remedies to enforce compliance with the Department of Justice’s constitutional obligations,” the judge wrote in the Medical Marijuana Amendment. I wrote it with a quote.

Del Favero and other companies have been sued in recent years for trying to plant cannabis strains in Florida because the application process was obstructed. I have filed a legal objection.

One strategy involved companies applying for licenses, but health authorities did not open application windows and did not accept licenses, but health departments did not grant licenses. If so, we have initiated a legal objection.

In 2014, lawmakers passed legislation allowing a relatively limited number of patients to receive low-THC cannabis products. Medical marijuana companies operating in Florida were part of the first group of applicants to be licensed to sell low-THC cannabis in 2015.

In March, the Department of Health accepted applications for black farmer licenses as designated by the 2017 law. But, as Bilbury quoted in a footnote, the state doesn’t allow it.

A footnote refers to a recent news story about a black farmer’s license being awaited for several months.

“The article alleges that delays in issuing licenses to other MMTCs have allowed three MMTCs to control two-thirds of Florida’s medical marijuana market,” writes Bilbrey.

Bilbrey’s criticism reflects the rush of investors around the world to set up shop in Florida.

With medical marijuana cases rising in the state, the Political Commission recently launched an initiative toward a 2024 vote to legalize adult recreational marijuana use.

The state’s cannabis market is “strong and many companies are considering entering the market,” attorney Jim McKee told the Florida News Service on Thursday.

“As a result, there is great interest in additional licenses that can be issued once the application process begins,” said McKee, who represents many medical marijuana operators and applicants. The Office of Medical Marijuana Use continues to work on the application forms used in the process, but there is growing frustration among potential applicants that the application process has not yet begun. Judge Bilbury’s statement is a recognition of that fact.”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Freed, who lost the Democratic primary to Charlie Christ last month, also criticized the DeSantis administration on Thursday for its handling of the medical marijuana program.

Freed, a former medical marijuana lobbyist, called the delay in black agricultural licenses a “misuse of justice” and said the DeSantis administration should also take action on additional licenses.

“Shamefully, year after year, we’ve made excuses and excuses that have made the market less fair and competitive,” Fried told reporters.

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