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Florida Issues Medical Cannabis Rules, Opening Doors for New Businesses

Florida state regulators released this week new guidelines for their medical marijuana program. It could mean a large increase in the number of licensed business. 

Local news station FOX13 in Tampa reports that the state Department of Health on Monday “set in motion a process to issue up to 22 more medical-marijuana licenses, in a highly anticipated move that could double the size of Florida’s medical-cannabis industry,” while also announcing “an emergency rule that would make it far more expensive for marijuana operators to renew their licenses every two years, increasing the cost from roughly $60,000 to more than $1 million.”

A new emergency rule was issued by the state agency that changes financial obligations for dispensary applicants. According to Florida Politics, “new entities wanting to operate in Florida’s lucrative medical marijuana market will be required to submit a $146,000 non-refundable fee to the state and submit an application that will be competitively reviewed by the state under a new emergency rule issued Monday.”

The outlet reports that the “initial application fee is more than double what licensees initially paid, but reflects the amount the state charged so-called Pigford applicants,” and that although “Gov. Ron DeSantis has been loath to increase operating costs for Florida businesses, he has complained in the past that he didn’t think the state charged enough for lucrative medical marijuana licenses.”

Florida PoliticsThis article provides more information about the implications of the proposed change for applicants.

“It’s not only application costs that will increase. It appears that the state is increasing licensing costs to businesses. Presently, medical marijuana treatment centres must pay $60063. To determine the fees, the state will subtract the amounts it received in application fees from the money it spent on regulating the industry. This sum is divided by how many medical marijuana treatment centres are licensed. 

“It’s not clear how much the state has spent regulating the industry over the last several years, but the Department of Health included a $6.2 million increase for the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) in its most recent budget request to state legislators. The hiring of 31 additional staff members at the Tallahassee headquarters will cost about half that amount. The company also plans to open new regional offices. The other half will be spent on outside contractors that administer the seed-to-sale tracking systems; produce medical marijuana identification cards; conduct background screenings; review licenses; and provide outside legal work.”

In 2016, more than 70% of Sunshine State voters approved an amendment that legalized medical marijuana treatment for qualifying patients. The law has been amended and tweaked by state lawmakers and officials over the years.

Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Health “released a highly anticipated rule setting THC dosage amounts and supply limits on products doctors can order for medical marijuana patients,” public radio station WUSF reported in August.

“The emergency rule sets a 70-day total supply limit of 24,500 mg of THC for nonsmokable marijuana and establishes dosage caps for different routes of administration such as edibles, inhalation and tinctures,” WUSF reported at the time. “The rule, which was sent to patients and doctors on Friday and went into effect Monday, also carries out a state law that imposed a 2.5-ounce limit on smokable marijuana purchases over a 35-day period. The rule sets THC limits in all nonsmokable products. However, weight is the only criterion for whole flowers and any other products that may be smoked. These limits are not determined by the THC (the euphoric component of marijuana). Doctors can seek an emergency ruling to override the restrictions for patients they feel are in violation. The rule does not identify a way for patients or doctors to appeal if the requests are denied.”

DeSantis won re-election last week, but has been subject to pressure and pushback from supporters who demand that the state remove dosage limitations.