Florida Supreme Court Makes Unusual Moves Regarding Marijuana
In an unusual move, the Florida Supreme Court is poised to rule that the state has properly implemented a 2016 constitutional amendment that largely legalized medical marijuana. Judges will hear arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by a Tampa company challenging the constitutionality of a 2017 law that seeks to implement the constitutional amendments.
The case focuses on parts of the law that relate to the licensing of companies operating in the medical marijuana industry, as well as the state licensing process for dispensaries.
In July, the Supreme Court overturned a question that was not at the center of the first hearing: whether the 2017 law was a so-called unconstitutional special law. Judges will hear arguments Wednesday on the constitutionality of the law and the state's pharmacy licensing process.
Florida's Constitution prohibits special laws that are generally intended to benefit certain businesses. Flynn, who unsuccessfully applied for a medical marijuana license, argues that parts of the 2017 law unlawfully restricted companies from entering the industry. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the only way to judge whether a law is an unconstitutional special law is "to have the class closed under the law," Flynn's lawyers wrote in a statement. Here, "the class" is the licensees, "which the legislature may also call in the law, that is, a class that is" closed under this law.
The Florida Department of Health, which administers the medical marijuana system, said in a brief statement that the 2017 law ultimately represents a "clear and present threat" to Florida's health and safety. The case is being closely watched in the medical marijuana industry, where companies are waging major licensing disputes. If the lower court rules on Floreen, the Department of Health could go to the Supreme Court.
The case focuses heavily on a requirement that lawmakers included in the 2017 law that all licensed companies must be able to handle all aspects of the business, including the production, distribution and distribution of marijuana, a concept known as vertical integration. Flynn argues that this was not the intention behind the constitutional amendment and limits the number of companies that can operate within the industry. The alternative would have been a system in which companies could carry out different aspects for each of these companies, known as a horizontal structure.
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