Fate of medical marijuana industry in hands of state Supreme Court
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The fate of the state’s medical marijuana regulatory structure lies in the hands of the Florida Supreme Court, which on Wednesday heard a legal challenge brought by Florigrown for a second time.
The company alleges the state’s law favored some businesses getting licenses over others.
The court must now decide whether that’s true.
22 growers licenses have been issued since voters approved medical marijuana in 2016.
“This is everything but a free market. It has created a monopoly,” said Florigrown Attorney Katherine Giddings.
Giddings argued the law that implemented the 2016 constitutional amendment carved out a special class, specifically designed to put those companies first in line.
“The legislature might as well just have named them in the statute,” said Giddings.
The Department of Health argued Florigrown hasn’t received one of the 11 available licenses because they didn’t qualify.
“If Florigrown met the statutory requirements, including vertical integration, it certainly could apply for one of those 11 remaining licenses,” said DOH attorney Joe Jacquot.
The Department of Health said the only reason it hasn’t begun issuing those available licenses is because of the pending litigation.
“Hopefully we can get some clarity and reopen that application process,” said Jacquot.
Also at issue in the case is whether it’s constitutional for the state to require medical marijuana license holders to control everything from seed to sale.
If the court does rule in Florigrown’s favor on that issue, it could open up the market to individual retailers, growers and distributors.
The Department of Health argued the seed to sale model of the medical marijuana industry is essential to ensuring a safe and quality product, a requirement it contends is explicitly laid out in the 2016 amendment.
Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida said regardless of how the court rules, the conclusion of the lawsuit will benefit patients.
“There will be more competition. There will be more diversity. There will be more affordability for these products and more products,” said Sharkey.
Whether 11 new companies enter the marketplace or many more, rests in the hands of the justices.
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