Signs Are Ominous As Florida Supreme Court Pushing Off Medical Marijuana Legalization
In a case that could have dramatic implications for the state's pottery industry, the Florida Supreme Court took an unusual step Wednesday when it heard arguments against a state law that would implement a constitutional amendment that largely legalizes medical marijuana. TAMPA, Fla. - Florida-based Florigrown LLC is challenging the 2017 law that creates the first federal-wide medical cannabis program in the United States.
Part of the law requires medical marijuana operators to handle all aspects of a cannabis business, including growing, processing, distributing, and selling products. Flynn, whose owners include former Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former state Sen. Joe Negron, has accused the legislation of not properly implementing the changes.
Flynn is sticking to a rule known as vertical integration, which violates a constitutional amendment approved by more than 71 percent of voters in 2016. The Tampa-based company argues that "vertical integration" is needed before a company can enter the industry.
Flynn won his lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, against the state Department of Health.
Florida's constitution prohibits special laws that are generally intended to benefit certain companies, and the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in May. In a rare move, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered it to focus on whether the law constituted an unconstitutional special law. Wednesday's arguments came as the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis appealed an appeals ruling that upheld a federal judge's injunction that found the 2017 law incompatible with the constitutional amendment. During Wednesday's hearing, Florida Department of Health officials argued that allowing applicants who meet certain criteria to compete for coveted medical licenses for marijuana would be illegal.
It's clearly an open class, "Jacquot said, but there's no" grow-bucket "license and no" grow-bucket "license.
However, Florida Attorney General Katherine Giddings pointed out that the state has only issued licenses to those who have applied for licenses under the 2014 law that allows non-euphoric cannabis that preceded the passage of the constitutional amendment. It's a closed class, so no one can ever get the same privileges as they do with medical marijuana, "she said.
It is far from a free market, it is a monopoly that creates a few companies, and that is just not good for the state of Florida and the people.
The 2017 law allows health authorities to grant licenses to licensed operators if those companies have not been selected in previous licensing rounds or are in litigation with the Department of Health. The law also requires companies operating in Florida's citrus industry to go through the same licensing process as companies in other states, such as California. A federal lawsuit is also being filed against black farmers, with Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs (FACS) issuing licenses for the cultivation of medical marijuana.
On another issue, the justices expressed disagreement Wednesday about the constitutionality of the law. Referring to the common law, Judge Alan Lawson said: "There is a broad application applicable to the implementation of a constitutional amendment.
Presiding Judge Charles Canady asked Jacquot why it was not arbitrary to determine whether a unit was eligible for a license if it sued the state. Jacqueline said the lost applicants had already been evaluated by state health officials and were at least close to obtaining licenses. I don't know how to say I should console myself if they are judged to be deficient, "he said.
Judge Jamie Grosshans also expressed skepticism about the law and the licensing system. If they have clearly not met the standards of the department, they belong to a closed, privileged class, so why are they being given preference over newcomers?
Jacquot acknowledged that the currently licensed operators, known as medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs), have a head start in the industry, but argued that this does not make the law special. He said the legislature had given an advantage to someone new to the industry and said he was skeptical of the department's argument.
You go through the process of the Department of Health, "Jacquot said," and you still meet all the criteria to become an MMTC. Now some people may say that you are second class, but now you have to meet all these criteria before you become MM TC. Judge Carlos Muniz appeared to support Jacqueline's position, and the court's three judges agreed.
The law gives priority to older applicants, and it is not for the legislature to decide that you have to have the option after you have run the business, "Muniz said. The case of Flurry has drawn widespread attention in Florida, where licenses have sold for more than $50 million and the number of registered patients has exceeded 400,000 and continues to grow. Several potential medical marijuana operators have stepped in with hopes of gaining access to the state's $1.2 billion medical marijuana market.
Also on Wednesday, Triangle Capital Inc., represented by Governor Jeff Kottkamp, appealed to the Supreme Court. Triangle has licenses for medical marijuana in Colorado and Arizona, according to court documents.
Former state legislator Kottkamp argued that the 2017 law gives certain operators privileges. The law cannot be used to grant special favors to private companies, which is what is happening in the medical marijuana sector, he said. Ultimately, our goal is to provide affordable and safe medical cannabis to patients, and if we allow the free market to regulate this, we will achieve that goal.