Florida judge to state: Quit stalling approval of medical marijuana permits

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A Florida judge warned the state Department of Health that it has until Oct. 19 to register new medical cannabis operators or risk being held in contempt.

Friday’s scathing order by Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson follows an August decision in which he ruled that the state law restricting the number of medical marijuana businesses was unconstitutional, according to the News Service of Florida.

Dodson’s ruling could open up Florida, which has experienced sizzling growth, to additional opportunities for MMJ businesses. The state is seen as a lucrative market because it is populous with high market demand for MMJ products.

Here’s the situation:

  • Florida approved licenses for 14 vertically integrated MMJ operators, each of which can open up to 25 dispensaries across the state.
  • The judge’s ruling would require the state to register Tampa-based Florigrown, which was the plaintiff in the case, as an MMJ operator by the end of the day Oct. 19. He ruled that the state should do so unless it can “clearly demonstrate” that such approval would lead to the unsafe use of MMJ, according to the News Service of Florida.
  • Dodson’s order would block Florida’s plan to expand the current number of vertically integrated licenses by only four, from 14 to 18. It would require Florida instead to begin approving licenses according to its Medical Marijuana Amendment, which more generally calls for the state to ensure the availability of MMJ to patients.

Health department spokesman Nick Van Der Linden wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily that the agency was reviewing the order.