MIAMI – The First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee on Tuesday ruled against Florida cannabis officials in an opinion that said the current scheme to regulate the number of cannabis treatment centers allowed in the state is unconstitutional.
“Today’s major ruling is a victory for openness and the future of medical marijuana in Florida. When 71 percent of Floridians voted for access to this life-changing medicine, they didn’t expect restrictive legislation that stood in the way of progress and open markets—legislation that hinders smaller farms, people of color, and others from participating in this vital new economic opportunity,” said former cannabis industry lobbyist and Florida’s recently-elected Agricultural Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried in a press release. Fried also is an attorney, a Democrat, and native Floridian.
“I thank the First District Court of Appeals for their wise decision, and I encourage the Governor to take all necessary steps to implement the true will of the people. We stand ready to lend the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ expertise to the Department of Health as it moves forward,” she added.
The court’s decision may allow more medical cannabis vendors, which could bring a major adjustment to already established businesses, in a large, potentially lucrative market. The First District ruling made no recommendation on issuing new licenses. If Florida doesn’t appeal the ruling, state officials would have to consider changes to current policies.
Since legalizing medical cannabis in 2016, Florida has registered more than 240,000 medical marijuana patients. Currently, there are 142 dispensary locations statewide that are owned and operated by less than ten vertically integrated companies.
The vertical business model was required by the state of Florida, in order to have greater overall regulatory control of the state’s medical cannabis industry. Cannabis businesses in Florida also have been required to partner with one of the state’s existing agricultural businesses for cultivation.
In an unrelated story, TallahasseeReports.com on Tuesday speculated about various financial dealings of Commissioner Fried, who was sworn into office in January. She and her partner Jake Bergmann purchased a home together in February, in Tallahassee. Bergmann is also chief executive officer of one of the state’s leading cannabis companies, Surterra Wellness.