Florida Makes Emergency Rules on Businesses’ Medical Marijuana Applications

After nearly ten years of waiting, The Florida Department of Health has finally released its guidelines on the application process for businesses to enter the state’s medical marijuana industry.

But there’s a catch. The guidelines are temporary emergency rules, not the permanent framework to use going forward.

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The Department of Health, which regulates the state’s multibillion-dollar medical marijuana industry, released the two emergency rules on Monday. The rules paint the broad strokes of the application process for companies seeking a medical marijuana treatment center license. The license permits them to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana. Until this point, businesses looking to enter the thriving industry had little luck.

Medical Marijuana (File Photo, Shutterstock)

One of the emergency rules indicates that the department will be giving out licenses in batches, so not all new permits will be available at once. However, the new rule was vague regarding when the application window will open or how many licenses will be up for grabs with each batch. It’s not clear how far apart batches will be either.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said the temporary rules favor applicant businesses that used to use at least one property for processing citrus goods but want to start processing marijuana instead.

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Because of slow litigation and red tape on the part of the state, just 22 companies are currently licensed to operate in Florida’s medical marijuana industry, and only 19 have set up a store. And the burdensome litigation isn’t going away, which has disincentivized businesses from applying in the past. The state’s new “batching” system is designed to allow companies to easily re-apply. Instead of investing large amounts of time and money into one all-or-nothing shot at licensing that depends on how litigation shakes out, the batching system allows repeat attempts, albeit with a $146,000 fee.

The second newly published rule makes it even more expensive for marijuana businesses to renew their licenses every two years, raising the cost from about $60,000 to more than $1 million.

The new rules haven’t made everyone happy. Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, told the Tampa Bay Times that he wants as many players in the market as possible, which the steep application fee prevents. He argues the entire application needs to be reformed, and emergency half-measures won’t cut it.

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