In Florida, the regulatory environment surrounding cannabis has undergone many changes in recent years, and may see drastic changes in the future (as the recreational marijuana movement gains momentum). Though a super-majority of voters passed the Amendment 2 initiative on November 8, 2016 to further expand medical marijuana accessibility to all patients with “debilitating conditions,” the implementation of restrictive laws and regulations governing medical marijuana has created a swirling cloud of uncertainty for those interested in Florida’s medical marijuana market.
On June 9, 2017, the Florida State legislature passed
Senate Bill 8A — otherwise known as the Medical Use of Marijuana Act (the “Act”) — which established various laws intended to implement Amendment 2. Many of the fine details of implementation have been left to the discretion of the Florida Department of Health, but the Act has created a regulatory regime that gives at least some indication of the restrictions that medical marijuana businesses will encounter moving forward.
Various Medical Marijuana Products Allowed, But No Smoking
Pursuant to the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, various medical marijuana products may be sold and distributed to qualifying patients, but there is a ban on smoking. It’s worth noting that there are is a lawsuit currently pending that challenges the medical marijuana smoking ban, but at present, businesses must be careful not to run afoul of the law — avoid distributing medical marijuana products that are intended to be smoked.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
The Act has expanded the earlier Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act beyond terminal conditions. Now, patients may qualify for medical marijuana if they have one of a list of medical conditions that includes, but is not limited, to:
Further, any condition that is similar in kind to the listed conditions will qualify the patient for medical marijuana so long as his/her physician submits supporting documentation justifying such. The relaxation of earlier patient restrictions has significantly opened up the market — in fact, some industry observers believe that over one million Floridians might qualify under the new medical marijuana requirements.
Initially, the Act allowed for seven medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) to operate in the state with an additional ten MMTCs to follow. These centers act as all-in-one, vertically-integrated cultivators, distributors, and retailers for medical marijuana. Pursuant to the Act, following the registration of every 100,000 “active qualified patients” in the medical marijuana use registry maintained by the Department of Health, four more medical marijuana treatment centers will be licensed for operation in the state. A
Department of Health spokesman explained that an “active qualified” patient is someone who has been added to the medical marijuana use registry and who has a patient identification card.
It’s worth noting that there are restrictions on who is eligible to apply for a MMTC license. Only those entities that have been registered to do business in the Florida for at least five consecutive years and that have a valid certificate of registration issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may apply for a medical marijuana treatment center license in Florida.
If you qualify to apply for a license, and are eventually granted a medical marijuana treatment center license to operate in Florida, you will have the ability to open many dispensaries across the state. Currently, a cap of 25 dispensaries applies, which must be allocated across five geographic areas based on population. The dispensary cap increases by five for every 100,000 “active qualified” patients registered in the program and is set to
expire on April 1, 2020. At that point, there will be no limitations on the amount of dispensary each MMTC may establish. Speak to an Experienced Cannabis Business Lawyer Today
If you’re interested in exploring business opportunities in the Florida medical marijuana space, this evolving regulatory environment may have a chilling effect on your ability to commit to plans in the state.
Greenspoon Marder LLP is a
national full-service business law firm with over 200 attorneys across 26 offices throughout the United States. Our attorneys provide are committed to helping businesses involved in the medical marijuana industry, both in Florida and throughout the country. We believe in personalized legal representation, and will work with you from the beginning of the client-engagement process to ensure that your goals are being met.
Call (888) 491-1120 to speak with an experienced cannabis business lawyer today.