Florida judge: State’s medical cannabis dispensary cap unconstitutional

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Florida medical marijuana, Florida judge: State’s medical cannabis dispensary cap unconstitutional

A judge has struck down Florida’s medical marijuana dispensary cap, a victory for existing operators seeking to expand locations in the fast-growing market.

Second Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled Friday that the cap is unconstitutional.

Gievers wrote that the dispensary cap, instituted by the Florida Legislature in 2017, “erects barriers” that increase costs and delay access to products.

She added that it’s exactly the “kind of regulation” that the 2016 voter-approved constitutional amendment was intended to eliminate.

The suit against the state and the dispensary cap was filed by Trulieve, a multistate medical marijuana company that has the most dispensaries in Florida.

Here’s the situation:

  • Florida lawmakers in 2017 capped the number of dispensaries an MMJ operator could open at 25. (The cap increased to 30 when the number of patients passed the 100,000 threshold.)
  • As a practical matter, none of the existing MMJ license holders has yet reached that cap. But Trulieve, for example, operates 24 dispensaries in the state, according to a Jan. 25 state report, and said it wants to open more.
  • Separately, a judge ruled last year that Florida’s MMJ licensing structure, which includes a vertically integrated structure and limits on the number of operators, is unconstitutional. New Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested lawmakers to address the issue by mid-March.

State officials didn’t immediately respond to Marijuana Business Daily inquiries for comment on the judge’s dispensary cap ruling.

The Florida MMJ program has 176,278 qualified patients. MJBizDaily‘s updated 2018 Factbook estimated Florida’s MMJ sales would hit $200 million-$300 million in 2018.