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Florida to Resume Online Purchasing of Cannabis Products

An administrative judge in Florida ruled Monday that patients who have used medical cannabis in Florida will soon be allowed to purchase such products online. 

Judge Suzanne Van Wyk’s decision comes following the Florida state regulators that had banned patients from using Leafly online, an app which was contracted by medical marijuana providers to assist them in completing their orders electronically.

According to local television station CBS12, state officials said “the arrangements violated a state law banning operators from contracting for services ‘directly related to the cultivation, processing and dispensing’ of cannabis.”

Those third-party, online companies saw Florida-based medical marijuana operators sever ties after the state’s Department of Health admonished them and threatened a $500,000 fine if the practice persisted.

CBS12 reported that the Department of Health handed down a memo saying that “the services were prohibited under a 2017 law that set up a structure for the Florida cannabis industry,” and that the law “requires medical marijuana operators to control all aspects of the business from seed to sale — including cultivation, processing and dispensing of products — rather than allowing companies to handle individual components of the trade.”

But Leafly, the station reported, “argued that it is not engaging in activity related to the dispensing of cannabis products because the company does not accept payment for or distribute cannabis products to patients,” and the company “filed a petition asking an administrative law judge to find that the Florida Department of Health employed an ‘unadopted and invalid rule’ to conclude that the online services violated the law.”

Leafly was reported to have partnered with 277 Florida marijuana sellers. 

Judge Van Wyk “didn’t go as far Monday as Leafly requested,” according to CBS12, “but she found that the ban on the use of the third-party sites amounted to an unadopted rule and ordered the state agency to ‘immediately discontinue reliance on its policy regarding online ordering of medical marijuana through third-party websites.’”

Curbside pick-ups and online orders have both become commonplace among cannabis sellers since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. In fact, policymakers from various cities and states have eased restrictions so that patients can safely purchase their marijuana.

Florida officials issued emergency rules last year to permit physicians to remotely visit patients or issue prescriptions. This option was extended to patients who use medical marijuana.

Florida voters approved a 2016 ballot measure that legalized medical cannabis treatment. The law’s scope has expanded over the years.

Florida Department of Health published new rules last year to allow patients who use medical cannabis to obtain edible products, such as brownies, and other sweets.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (a Republican) signed a law allowing cannabis patients to smoke their treatment.

Efforts to legalized recreational pot use in Florida have yet to materialize—though there are clear signs of budding political support. 

Democrats currently vying for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in Florida have even traded barbs recently over who is more determined to end pot prohibition.

Charlie Crist, a former governor in the state who is currently serving in Congress and vying to be governor again, said earlier this month that he will “legalize marijuana in the Sunshine State” if he were elected next year.

“This is the first part of the Crist contract with Florida,” said Crist, who previously served as a Republican governor before leaving the party.

That drew a strong response from Nikki Fried, the state’s agriculture commissioner who is also aiming to win the Democratic nomination for governor and was quick to note Crist’s previous enforcement of anti-pot laws.

“Imitation is flattery, but records are records,” Fried said on Twitter earlier this month. “People went to jail because Republicans like @CharlieCrist supported and enforced racist marijuana crime bills. Glad he’s changed his mind, but none of those people get those years back. Legalize marijuana.”