Florida institutes new rules for medical cannabis licenses

(Note: This story was updated from an earlier version to change the number of licenses being issued by Oct. 3 from eight to five.)

Florida has already licensed 12 medical marijuana businesses, but the state health department has decided to adjust the regulations for additional businesses, seemingly a nod to the agency’s previous missteps.

Five additional MMJ licenses are scheduled to be issued by Oct. 3, but those applicants will have faced a much different process than their predecessors, according to the News Service of Florida.

Under an “emergency rule” enacted Wednesday by the health department, the agency is outsourcing the application scoring to 16 “subject-matter experts” who have knowledge in various sectors of the cannabis industry, the news outlet reported.

The identities of the applicants will be concealed, possibly addressing criticism that the first round of licenses were awarded to candidates whom some believe were given preferential treatment because of ties to influential lobbyists and lawmakers.

Another major change that seems to address the preferential treatment concern: Businesses with Department of Agriculture certificates that have operated in Florida for five years now are permitted to apply. Previously, only nurseries that had been in business for at least 30 years could apply.

In other alterations:

  • The applications are being filed on a specific, 87-page form, a departure from the loose requirements of the previous rounds that led to applications of 1,000 pages or more.
  • One license must be granted to a member of the Florida Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association.
  • Four “contingent licenses” will be granted, and they will have the first shot at the additional licenses to be awarded once the program reaches 100,000 patients. The state registry is now at 37,830 patients.

Some industry watchers believe such a substantial overhaul will prevent the state from meeting its Oct. 3 deadline to issue the business licenses.