Florida medical marijuana retailer fights ‘exponential’ licensing fee increase

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A medical marijuana company in Florida is challenging a $1.3 million biennial renewal fee approved by regulators last December and backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Sanctuary Cannabis, which operates five MMJ dispensaries in the state, argued the fee hike was “an exponential increase” from previous assessments and is seeking an administrative hearing with the Department of Health, according to the News Service of Florida.

The fee increase is more than 22 times the $60,000 biennial fee operators have been paying for license renewals since the program launched six years ago, the news service reported.

Sanctuary’s petition shows that the state collected roughly $84 million in the 2022-23 fiscal year through various cannabis fees, fines and patient registrations and the health agency projects a surplus of nearly $4 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year and $61 million for 2024-25, according to the News Service of Florida.

Florida’s fiscal year, similar to most government agencies, ends in June.

More than 854,000 medical patients are qualified for the state’s MMJ program, the news service reported.

DeSantis, a long shot to unseat Donald Trump as the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, has backed fee hikes and increased regulation for the state’s MMJ industry.

Last year, the governor called for fee hikes for MMJ companies, arguing the state should charge licensees and applicants “an arm and a leg.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday is scheduled to hear oral arguments about whether an adult-use legalization initiative will appear on the state’s November 2024 ballot.

The state’s high court must approve the proposed wording of the initiative before voters can weigh in.

The recreational marijuana legalization campaign has submitted more than 1 million signatures from registered voters.

That would be enough to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for next year’s ballot, but the state’s Republican attorney general, Ashley Moody, is challenging the initiative.