Things have been moving slowly as far as growth in the newly legalized medical marijuana industry in Florida – and there are multiple factors influencing this crawl to competence. Since 2014, there has been controversy as to how the state has the program set up – with issues abound. One of the most notable problems since the beginning has been the licensing structure that is creating the beginnings of a very closed off industry. Now, a group of advocates from south Florida, known as Patients and Producers Alliance, has filed a lawsuit against the state claiming that these laws are unconstitutional.
“What we’re seeing is basically a state-by-state plan by what you could call ‘the big dogs’ of the industry,” Aaron Nevins, president of the alliance, says. “There’s a barrier to entry, and it’s harming the market… It’s putting profit above patients, essentially, and it’s allowing corporate America to stamp out any competition.”
The lawsuit was filed in Leon County against the state Department of Health a month ago. As it stands now, the state has yet to respond and no date has been set for the first hearing on this suit. This is likely due to another lawsuit that is being more heavily focused on – which would expand the ways patients are able to consume cannabis. The goal of said lawsuit is to lift the no-smoke ban on medical marijuana that legislators introduced after Amendment 2 was passed by voters in 2016.
According to those at the Patients and Producers Alliance, the state is deliberately stifling the competition by setting things up the way they have it. Currently, only 13 licenses have been issued to medical marijuana producers – and at least 7 of those were already licensed under the Charlotte’s Web law passed in 2015 which was introduced by lawmakers shortly before, and passed shortly after, Amendment 2 failed to pass in 2014.
Since then, it has been difficult for any new producers to join the industry due to the extremely high costs – including around $60,000 in application fees alone.
“There really isn’t a lot of opportunity,” Nevins says. “You have a couple of people that own a majority of the licenses. A lot of them are selling for very inflated valuations — they’re flipping for $40 to $50 million — and they’re not even producing any product.”
Right now, less than one percent of the state has access to medical marijuana – and this is largely due to the slow rollout of the state’s production of the plant, which begins with the issues being challenged in court by the Patients and Producers Alliance. Whether the case will be won in court, or whether it will take years of trial and error from legislature to see an improvement on what a thriving industry in the Sunshine State this could be, only time will tell at this point.