Florida Medical Marijuana System Now In Court
The suit is not about stopping medical marijuana in Florida but what the rules ought to be governing a lucrative market.
If there is one state that is the most melted in the national melting pot, it's Florida. That's fantastic in many ways, but it also means that many different people have strong opinions on serious issues.
This, of course, includes marijuana.
As with many conflicts, the debate over the state's marijuana system has ended up in court. Florida is still expected to have one of the biggest medical marijuana markets in the country. It's just taking a little bit longer to get off the ground.
Florida controversies -- and legal quagmires everywhere -- tend to lean more to the complicated than the straightforward, but here is the broad outline. Voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in 2016 (although, technically, it greatly expanded the existing law). The state set up a system and began awarding licenses.
But then Tampa-based cannabis company Florigrown filed a lawsuit claiming that the system is unfair. A circuit court judge in Leon County (home of the state capital, Tallahassee) ruled in the company's favor. In his order, the judge wrote that how the state fashioned the medical marijuana law did not conform to voters' wishes.
The judge also issued a temporary injunction on issuing anymore licenses. However, the 1st District Court of Appeals has put a stay on the circuit court ruling until they review the case.
The Underlying Issue
In fighting against the system as developed by the state, Florigrown successfully argued that the state had unconstitutionally put caps on issuing licenses that effectively blocked out more companies from entering the potentially lucrative market.
They especially focused on a "vertical integration" system created by the state that requires cannabis companies applying for a license to have the ability to grow, process and sell marijuana.
That part of the law effectively kept many businesses from being licensed - including Florigrown - because they can't specialize in just one area of the marijuana business, such as running a grow house or operating a dispensary.
A lot of money is at stake. One projection has the Florida marijuana market hitting $1.3 billion as quickly as 2021.
Now, the appeals court will consider the Florigrown case, hopefully in early 2019. The main issue will be the fairness of the Florida medical marijuana system and whether it complies with what voters approved in 2016.
However, this isn't the only issue surrounding marijuana in Florida. It's not even the only lawsuit.
- Earlier in 2018, a different Leon County circuit court judge ruled that the state's ban on smokable marijuana is unconstitutional. The appeal on the case is still pending.
- State regulators are still working on rules governing the sale of marijuana edibles in Florida, another potential area of controversy
All this is happening against the backdrop of a growing movement to get legalized recreational marijuana on the Florida ballot in 2020. That should prove interesting, to say the least.
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