Florida Supreme Court looking at state’s medical cannabis law

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Thor Benson

Florida’s Supreme Court is taking a look at the state’s medical cannabis law that was created after the state amended its constitution in 2016. The Court is looking at if the law could be considered a “special law,” which is a law that is “intended to benefit specific entities.” Florida’s constitution does not permit the existence of special laws. A firm called Florigrown is claiming that only certain types of firms can get medical cannabis licenses.

“This (Supreme) Court has repeatedly held that the controlling question in evaluating whether a law is an unconstitutional special law is whether the class in the law is ‘closed,’” Florigrown lawyers wrote in a brief. “Here, the classes are so clearly closed, the Legislature might as well have named the licensees in the statute.”

Christopher Cano, executive director of NORML’s Central Florida office, told Cannabis News Box that Florigrown might actually have a point. He said that the lawmakers that created the state’s medical cannabis law seemingly wanted to benefit a select group of firms.

The nature of the original language which required eligible potential licensees to be contiguously licensed nurserymen in Florida for the preceding 30 years seemed to create conditions which fit and therefore benefitted such a small number of entities that Florigrown seems to have a solid argument to strike down this law,” Cano said. “It is clear to me that the Florida legislators that authored and pushed through this language had every intention of benefitting a few select entities which they clearly have ties to through personal relationships or campaign donations.”

Cano said the state could see the Supreme Court change this and allow more businesses to get licenses, which would create a more competitive market. He said Florigrown has been attempting to get a medical cannabis license for some time and has not been able to, and this is the case for many other small businesses in the state. 

“This is a clear battle between corrupt legislators aligned with industry players who originally sought to create an oligopoly of the burgeoning Florida medical marijuana industry and small business owners who are challenging that corruption being codified into law,” Cano said.

It’s not yet clear how the Supreme Court will rule, but cannabis advocates are hoping it’ll help open up Florida’s medical cannabis market and allow new small businesses to benefit from it and bring their products to customers in the state.