Contentious medical marijuana regulator in Florida stepping down

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Florida’s top medical marijuana regulator has resigned after a controversial three-year tenure marked by litigation and a scolding by lawmakers for missing mandated deadlines to issue more MMJ business licenses.

The Florida Department of Health said Friday that Christian Bax’s resignation will take effect Aug. 10. He had led the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use since it was created in 2015.

Courtney Coppola, the agency’s deputy director, has been appointed interim director.

At least 11 legal cases and administrative challenges related to the state’s MMJ industry are pending, according to Florida Politics.

The case with the most significant business implications is the constitutional challenge of the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana.

Last year, lawmakers chastised Bax for being slow to issue additional MMJ business licenses and patient cards.

Despite those issues, Florida’s MMJ industry has been growing quickly. Patient counts as of late June were approaching 130,000, with 2,500 patients being added each week.

Marijuana Business Factbook 2018 projects that MMJ sales in Florida will reach $175 million-$235 million this year.

The state recently announced plans to issue four additional licenses and separately grant a license to an applicant that had successfully challenged the scoring process.

The additions will increase the total number of vertically integrated licenses from 13 to 18. Each license holder can open up to 25 dispensaries across the state although none have opened that many so far.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily