- Florida officials are preparing to issue additional medical marijuana operating licenses in accordance with state law.
- The Department of Health (DoH) representative confirmed that 23 additional licenses have been made available on top of the previously announced 22 licenses.
- The DoH received 74 applications for the initial batch of 22 licenses and will evaluate and score them based on infrastructure, experience, and qualifications.
- A proposed bill would allow telehealth methods for renewing medical marijuana certifications, while a constitutional amendment for recreational marijuana legalization has gathered enough signatures for a referendum on the 2024 ballot.
Florida officials are ready to issue additional medical marijuana operating licenses in the coming years, according to a Department of Health (DoH) representative during Monday morning’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference meeting.
According to state law, officials and regulators must grant four new licenses for every 100,000 new patients who enter the market. The state recorded 828,560 patients as of last Friday, meaning that at least 10 additional licenses are required to be given out, though the DoH representative stated that an additional 23 licenses have been made available.
In December, the DoH announced that they would issue 22 medical marijuana operating licenses, with the Department of Health laying out guidelines for businesses to enter the state’s industry.
When Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research Coordinator Amy Baker sought clarification regarding the additional 23 licenses, the DoH affirmed that the licenses were made available on top of the previously-announced 22.
“We’re trying to think ahead, in part, to what we can assume is probable to be the number of licensees in May of 2025. Where you say an additional 23 MMTC licenses have been made available, I’m assuming that’s above and beyond the 22,” Baker asked, which the representative confirmed.
The DoH additionally stated that it received 74 applications for the crop of 22 licenses announced last year.
Per the December ruling, once the state receives an application, which is legally classified as public record, it will be “evaluated and scored by evaluators” in accordance with the required infrastructure, experience, and qualifications.
“During Phase Two Review, the Department’s evaluators will qualitatively review and score the scored sections of the applications, and other Department personnel will assess the non-scored portions of the applications,” states the Department of Health. “Upon completion of Phase Two Review, the Department will proceed to Phase Three Review during which it will calculate the Total Application Score for each application and approve the selected applicant for licensure.”
A separate emergency ruling published laid the foundation for the state to accept applications in a method it is referring to as batching cycles.
The ruling further states that a “batching cycle” is the grouping of applications for comparative review, though it does not specify when the cycles will be opened or how many licenses will be granted during each one.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Florida in 2016 through a ballot initiative known as Amendment 2. The initiative was approved by 71 percent of voters, making Florida one of 33 states, as well as the District of Columbia, to have legalized medical marijuana in some capacity. The initiative was sponsored by a political action committee called United for Care, which was led by Orlando attorney John Morgan.
The medical marijuana industry in Florida has had a significant economic impact, with sales exceeding $1 billion in 2020. Further, the industry’s expansion has also stimulated the real estate and construction sectors, as companies require facilities for cultivation, processing, and dispensaries, while tax revenue collected from medical marijuana sales contributes to the state’s budget and public initiatives.
Further expanding upon Florida’s medical marijuana foundation, a bill introduced by Rep. Spencer Roach was presented to the governor on Monday that would allow physicians to use telehealth methods to renew medical marijuana certifications for qualified patients.
The proposed legislation would keep in place the requirement that a physician must conduct the initial qualifying physical examination in person, but establishes that renewals could be completed remotely. During the COVID-19 pandemic, state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo authorized physicians to grant certification renewals remotely, but the order expired in June 2020.
Meanwhile, a proposed constitutional amendment that includes a referendum on recreational marijuana legalization on 2024 ballots in Florida procured 967,528 valid signatures as of Friday, surpassing the required number to send the proposal to voters.
The campaign, spearheaded by the Smart & Safe Florida political committee, would allow individuals aged 21 or older to “possess, use, purchase, display, and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and marijuana accessories for personal use for any reason.”
By mid-May, Trulieve — Florida’s largest medical marijuana distributor — contributed $39.05 million to the initiative, accounting for nearly all of the committee’s fundraising, with less than $125 coming from other sources. All but about $100,000 of the money raised by the committee has been spent on collecting and validating petition signatures.
The proposal would also allow any of the state’s 22 licensed medical marijuana operators to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell and distribute such products and accessories.”
The committee faces a potential hiccup, however, after the Florida Supreme Court stated this week that it would potentially consider a legal challenge issued by state Attorney General Ashley Moody that contends the initiative violates that state’s constitution.
In her submission, Moody indicated that “the proposed amendment fails to meet the requirements” of specific state law. However, she withheld further details, promising “additional argument through a briefing at the appropriate time.”
Moreover, Gov. Ron DeSantis indicated hesitance in adopting a recreational marijuana statute at the federal level, stating during a presidential campaign stop last week that the drug’s street presence poses risks.
“It’s very controversial,” said the governor. “This stuff is very powerful now they’re putting on the street. And when these kids do it, it’s really bad for the youth. We need to be united as a society. We don’t want to do policies that’s going to make it easier access for them.”