The legal restriction on marijuana dispensaries in Florida
After a drawn-out legal action between the State of Florida (defendant) and Trulieve, Medical Marijuana dispensary (plaintiff), a circuit judge has ruled in favor of the plaintiff. Striking out the law limiting the number of dispensaries a Medical Marijuana retail company can own in the state.
The repealed law was part of a 2017 constitutional law passed to control and possibly correct the constitution that legalized the sale of medical Marijuana in the state. At its passing, Quincy-based Marijuana retailer, Trulieve challenged the law. Pointing out that the restrictive constitution “arbitrarily impairs product availability and safety” and “unfairly penalizes” pot providers.
Trulieve filed a case at the Leon County Court, which was presided over by Judge Karen Gievers. After studying the facts from both parties, Judge Gievers ruled in favor of Trulieve. The Judge had reached a decision in favor of Trulieve last month, but lawyers representing the company pressed for a revisit of an order that affected the states perpendicular integration policy. The law required medical Marijuana sellers to handle every aspect of the Marijuana trade from planting to the point of sale. Gievers ruling on the second case replaced the Jan 2 constitution, which was an unanticipated victory according to Trulieve.
In typical fashion, Judge Gievers criticized the legislature and state health officials for disregarding the constitutional amendment approved by over 71% of voters in 2016. The annulled 2017 law limited the number of dispensaries a licensed Marijuana retailer could own. The initial cap was set at 25 and could increase as the number of eligible Marijuana patients increased statewide. The cap, which is now at 30 dispensaries per retailer, will end by 2020.
In their prosecution case, Trulieve argued that the 25 store cap was problematic to their company growth as it was set after the company had opened 14 retail stores throughout the state. The company pointed out that if the cap law were enacted before their stores were opened, the company would have chosen different locales for their stores.
Friday’s 22-page ruling annulled the constitutional amendment, which placed a cap on licensed Marijuana retailers.
For her reason to overturn the constitution, Gievers opined that the legal cap created barriers that unnecessarily increased patients’ risks, costs, and inconvenience in getting products. Gievers further added that the cap delayed access to products, limited patients’ product options and exposed their information, privacy, and safety. The Judge stressed that even though the cap on the number of outlets was time limited, it was the type of law that the bill was meant to remove.
Gievers refused the department of health’s argument that the cap was put in place to give the state and local official ample time to review the law guiding retail medical marijuana dispensaries.
To Gievers, there was no need for more time; adding that the state had passed into law the use of medical marijuana in 2014.
In the court’s findings, the state health department showed no evidence why local officials and state officers did not study the effect of the law and created corrective laws and ordinances before the enactment of the 2016 amendment. Or why they needed more time to review the law guiding retail medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Judge also struck off the notion made by the health departments that the cap constitution was put in place to protect medical marijuana dispensaries from overexpansion. Gievers pointed out that the effect of the cap law contradicts the notion and MMTCs faced increased risks after the 2017 cap law.
In the Judge’s statement, she noted that putting established, viable, competitive businesses at a disadvantage to help less competitive businesses thrive, thereby adversely affecting consumer efficiency and choice, is not logically associated to a genuine public purpose.
In the ruling, Gievers ordered health department officials to allow Trulieve open 34 outlets and warned the department against enforcing the cap ban on licensed retailers, which she found to be against the voter-approved constitutional goals.
In a statement, Trulieve’s CEO Kim Rivers lauded the ruling, noting that her company had originally received a license to operate in Florida’s Northwest region, which is the most rural part of the state.
Gievers had previously overturned a law that banned the smoking of medical marijuana in public. On this matter, Governor DeSantis acknowledged that the practices of the state were against the constitution. The Governor gave the legislature until March 15 to remove the ban on smoking medical marijuana. To this end, Governor DeSantis threatened to pass up the state’s appeal of Judge Gievers ruling if the legislation failed to reverse the ban.
The new chief of state has a lot of hurdles to scale regarding Marijuana law. The approach of the governor’s regime in handling other aspects of Marijuana law is still unknown. It is worth noting that his predecessor, Governor Rick Scott defended the law until his last day in office.
In Friday’s ruling, Judge Gievers in trademark fashion reprimanded the legislature and health department for failure to correctly implement the amendment, which she described as a pivotal bill, which there were obligated to implement.