The Florida Legislature introduced House Bill 149 that would remove the state’s cap on the number of medical marijuana alternative treatment centers that are allowed in the state. The 2015 process for allocating licenses for the state’s 142 dispensaries has been heavily criticized and is the subject of over 25 lawsuits.
The state’s regulatory regime is under fire as the courts ruled that the current cap is unconstitutional. In December, the Florida House of Representatives filed a brief with the state’s supreme court asking it to overturn this decision. The introduced bill could help the state avoid an embarrassing loss if the Supreme Court declines to do so.
In July, Florida’s Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s medical marijuana rules are unconstitutional. Florigrown, LLC filed the lawsuit in 2017 against the Department of Health after it rejected Florigrown’s efforts to register as a medical marijuana treatment center as permitted by the state’s 2016 constitutional amendment. Florigrown argued that the state’s 2017 legislation unconstitutionally limited the number of available licenses and developed a special class to receive these licenses.
The lower court agreed with Florigrown and issued an injunction against Florida’s DOH. The DOH challenged this decision and lost. The appellate court found that the state’s 2017 legislation to be unconstitutional as it unreasonably capped the number of medical marijuana licenses to 14 and forced licensee to be vertically integrated, both of which contradicted the definition of a medical marijuana treatment center as defined in the constitutional amendment. The court’s ruling makes both restrictions on the medical marijuana industry null and void.
The new bill may be a sign that Florida’s Legislature and Governor are ready to move on. If this is the case, the large Florida medical marijuana market could see an influx of new participants. We would expect this to take some time as regulations and new laws may be needed to handle this process.