A much-anticipated decision came out of a First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee this week, ruling that the current vertical integrated system governing the medical marijuana industry in the state is unconstitutional. This decision upholds a prior 2018 decision from Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson, who originally sided with Florigrown, issuing a temporary injunction requiring state health officials to begin registering Florigrown and a handful of other medical marijuana firms. However, that decision was put on hold while the state appealed.
“We are pleased that the First District recognized the blatant unconstitutionality of the statutes. The Amendment expressly states that any legislation must be ‘consistent with’ the Amendment. The legislature enacted laws that not only directly conflict with the Amendment’s mandates, but are also in clear violation of the will of Florida’s voters, who overwhelmingly adopted the Amendment. This ruling is a huge victory for all of the Floridians who need access to medical marijuana,” Kathi Giddings, Deputy Chair of the Litigation Practice Group, Akerman LLP told The Marijuana Times.
When Amendment 2 was passed, it was never intended that the medical cannabis industry would be fully vertically integrated across the board. While this was the state’s intention, going back to 2015 with the passing of the Charlotte’s Web law, the 2016 Amendment passed by voters calls for individual licensing for cultivation, possession, transportation, distribution, dispensaries and every aspect of the industry.
Instead, a 2017 law signed by former Governor Rick Scott allows only one license, requiring a company to handle all aspects of business from seed-to-sale – not only creating a more closed market, but also preventing many from entering the industry altogether. The original ruling – and the one made by a three-judge panel this week – has determined that requiring the vertically integrated system conflicts directly with the constitutional amendment. This not only means that the cap on facilities is unreasonable, but it also means the state will need to look at reworking their laws governing medical marijuana business licenses.
“It means that companies that want to just have a dispensary or just process will be able to do that. That means smaller businesses will have an opportunity to enter the market and most importantly for medical marijuana patients, it means access to better quality medicine, more availability and lower prices,” said Adam Elend, CEO of Florigrown and a plaintiff in the original case.
Though the state has the option to appeal, current Governor Ron DeSantis has been serious about ending the legal battles, breaking up the industry (or what he calls the “cartels”), and getting medicine to the patients who need it most at a reasonable price. As it stands now, many dispensaries are constantly out of stock and most come with high price tags, putting medicine out of reach for many patients. Hopefully, the changes that should follow this ruling will provide a solution to these issues and ensure that Amendment 2 is implemented in the way it was intended.