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Florida Gov. DeSantis to Pot Licensees: ‘Charge These People More’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stated to a group reporters that Florida’s medical marijuana license holders need to be charged more for renewal and application fees. However, operators from the state believe that increasing application and renewal fees might spell disaster for many struggling businesses.

State officials “should charge these people more,” DeSantis said.

“I mean, these are very valuable licenses,” the governor continued. “I would charge them an arm and a leg. I mean, everybody wants these licenses.”

CBS News MiamiReports indicate that the governor may have been referring to future or existing license holders. It remains to be confirmed.

But Florida’s license and renewal rates already exceed fees seen in other states. That could be because Florida’s licensing system requires operators to cultivate, process and sell marijuana and derivative products without limiting the number of retail locations, and lawyers say this makes the state’s licenses more valuable.

After stepping into his role as governor in January 2019, one of DeSantis’ primary promises is to provide a boost to Florida’s economy.

Gov. DeSantis pushed to repeal Florida’s ban on smokable flower. Florida’s voters passed a constitutional amend legalizing medical marijuana. However, the legislature passed regulations prohibiting smokable cannabis and was signed into law by the ex-Gov. Rick Scott.

The ban was challenged by cannabis advocates who claimed it violated an amendment that voters had passed. A state court agreed and declared the rule invalid, but it remained in place as an appeal from Scott’s administration made its way through the courts. But, Gov. DeSantis, however, stated when he took office that the ban would not be repealed and his administration would cease appealing against the court’s decision.

On March 18, the ban on smoking smokable marijuana was repealed by Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a compromise bill which was approved by lawmakers. Smokable flower is, unsurprisingly, by far the most popular menu item at Florida’s over 460 medical cannabis dispensaries.

In 2014, low-THC cannabis was allowed for some patients. In 2015, medical marijuana companies that were part of the initial applicants paid more than $60,000 to become able to offer low-THC cannabis.

Then Florida’s 2016 constitutional amendment established more of what is thought of as a mature medical cannabis market with a variety of approved products.

Florida law demands legislative approval for rules that exceed $200,000 per year, or $1,000,000 over five years.

Jacking up application and renewal fees “would be unfortunate,” Brady Cobb, a lawyer and founder and CEO of Green Sentry told CBS News. “If it happens, it happens,” said Cobb. Cobb stated that Florida could earn more by taxing cannabis products and allowing marijuana operators to distribute to others. Then, taxing these sales would be an additional revenue stream.

Florida’s Black Farmer License Fees Are Too Expensive

The state charged a higher fee in a recent round of applications for a license set aside in Florida’s 2017 law for a Black cannabis farmer. According to rules set by the Department of Health applicants were required to pay an additional $146,000 in order to apply for the Black farmers license. This was twice the amount that they had paid during the 2015 application process.

“Black farmers are required to shell out $146,000 merely to apply for a license to grow medical marijuana,” the Miami New Times reports.

Last year, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried called the high fees for the Black farmer license “discriminatory.”

Although the department received a dozen applications to the Black farmer’s license, it hasn’t announced who the winner will be. A new round of license applications will launch again after the Black farmer license is issued, but the state hasn’t laid out a timeline. It is expected that at least 150 people will apply.