Updated on August 5, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The case Florida Dept. of Health versus Florigrown LLC, and others, has made the news. The case stated how the Florida Medical Marijuana statutory licensing procedures may be unconstitutional. The Florigrown case was first filed in Leon County Circuit Court. The outcome of this case would have impacted the Florida mandatory vertical integration.
Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers would have felt relief. The relief would come only if the supreme court had ruled and rendered the statutory cap unreasonable. FL cannabis laws would have to be reviewed, especially for MMTCs. Cannabis dispensaries in Florida can only retail products that they have grown, processed, and manufactured.
Appeal To Supreme Court Over Vertical Licensing Requirement In Florida
The Florida Department of Health appealed to the Supreme Court soon after the lower courts ruled in favor of Florigrown. The complainant had stated in their arguments that the state’s law that required companies to handle all the aspects of cannabis business conflicts with the 2016 constitutional amendment.
Florida’s cannabis licensing program was stopped because of the various injunctions that were issued as part of the Florigrown case. Those decisions could have had great implications for medical and recreational marijuana in Florida. In a very unusual move, however, the Supreme Court of Florida requested a second round of oral arguments on the case. The outcome of this case will determine if Florida’s medical marijuana licensing framework is constitutional.
The Florida Department of Health had to appeal to the state’s Supreme Court because it lost the case at the circuit and appellate court levels. The Supreme Court held a hearing concerning the matter on May 6, 2020.
Arguments to Be Heard in Supreme Court In October 2020
After that much-publicized hearing, the Supreme court requested additional briefing that argued whether the 2017 law violated a constitutional provision. The law came about to carry out the 2016 constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana.
The Supreme Court directed the two parties to appear on October 7, 2020 for more oral arguments on the matter. It is an unusual court request and makes the case even more high profile. The stakes are high and since a decision will not be made until almost the year ends, the interested parties wait in bated breath for the crucial moment.
After a final decision by the Supreme Court, the Department of Health will have to issue new rules. That is if the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the Medical Marijuana Treatment Center. They will have to revise and re-issue the rules regarding the MMTC license applications. They will have to do this while they avoid triggering a regulatory taking. They might consider issuing every current licensee with separate licenses to engage in each phase of the new, horizontal licensing scheme. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the state there would have to be a non-vertical licensure structure.
Whatever direction the proceeding goes after the October hearing one thing is very clear. It is going to be a very interesting and legally complicated case. What will change for the medical marijuana industry in Florida if vertical licensing requirements are removed? How will the state prevent criminal activities and monitor quality control if the cannabis flower can be outsourced and provided by third-party producers?
What will be interesting to see is how the removal of vertical licensing may impact legislation in other states. Particularly those that are experiencing low-supply and high-demand issues.