Back in 2017, Florida lawmakers decided to cap the number of medical marijuana dispensaries that a licensee could open to 25. Due to the overwhelming amount of medical patients that signed up for the program, over 100,000, the cap was raised slightly to 30 medical marijuana dispensaries. This cap on retailers was hotly contested and eventually Trulieve filed suit claiming this was unconstitutional.
Last week, Second Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the cap on medical marijuana dispensaries was indeed unconstitutional. In her ruling, she made it very clear that the cap “‘erects barriers’ that increase costs and delay access to products,” and went on to say that this type of restriction is “exactly the ‘kind of regulation’ that the 2016 voter-approved constitutional amendment was intended to eliminate.”
This is a landmark ruling that will allow business owners with existing licenses to open up new retail locations to meet the growing medical marijuana demand. While it is true that no licensee has yet to hit the previous cap, Trulieve currently has 24 locations and is working on opening more. Expanding the industry will also stimulate employment and generate valuable tax revenue for the state of Florida.
This isn’t the first time Florida lawmakers have attempted to limit the scale of the medical marijuana industry. Last year, a different Florida Judge ruled that the licensing structure, which mandated vertically integrated dispensaries and limits on the amount of operators, was unconstitutional.
Now that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has taken a proactive approach to medical marijuana, there are still some lawmakers who are still unwilling to compromise. DeSantis is encouraging lawmakers to repeal the smoking ban on medical marijuana by March and he will not pursue the appeal on the court ruling it was unconstitutional.
The Florida state senate is somewhat divided on the smoking ban, but bill sponsor Jeff Brandes is working to push it through committees and on to the Senate floor for a vote. Brandes commented on the debate saying that “There’s a little reefer madness going on in the Florida Senate right now.”
Republican Sen. Gayle Harrell insisted that a provision be added to allow smokable medical marijuana only if two physicians agreed that it’s the only consumption method that would benefit the patient. Brandes hopes to remove this statute before it goes to a vote remarking that, “I’m not going to bring a bill to the floor that hurts patients.”