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Florida’s Marijuana Dispensing Organizations

With over 71% of Florida voters passing Amendment 2 in 2016, many of us thought that the will of the people would be followed. As the Florida Department of Health (DOH) begins implementing Amendment 2, it is becoming clear the DOH is choosing to ignore and disregard the essential elements of the law.

Attorneys can help dispensing organizations stay in compliance with the rules by developing the proper standard operating procedures, the procedures for testing records and the procedures for preserving samples.

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm also represent clients subjected to enforcement actions initiated by law enforcement and the Florida Department of Health against patients, physicians, doctors and businesses that are accused of operating outside the regulatory structure in Florida.

Call (813) 250-0500 for a consultation today.

Rules for Medical Marijuana Dispensing Organizations

The Florida Legislature passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, which legalized a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high cannabidiol (CBD) form of cannabis (low-THC cannabis) for the medical use by patients suffering from cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 requires the DOH to approve five dispensing organizations with one in each of the following regions:

  • northwest Florida
  • northeast Florida
  • central Florida
  • southeast Florida
  • southwest Florida.

Currently, Florida has seven authorized dispensing organizations that have been approved including:

  • CHT Medical (Chestnut Hill Tree Farm)
  • The Green Solution (San Felasco Nurseries)
  • Trulieve (Hackney Nursery)
  • Surterra Therapeutics (Alpha Foliage, Inc.)
  • Modern Health Concepts (Costa Nursery Farms)
  • Knox Medical (Knox Nursery), and
  • GrowHealthy (McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery)

Applications for Florida’s Cannabis Dispensing Organizations

In order to be approved as a marijuana dispensing organization in Florida, an applicant must possess a certificate of registration issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the cultivation of more than 400,000 plants, be operated by a nurseryman, and have been operating as a registered nursery in the state of Florida for at least 30 continuous years.

Applicants as a marijuana dispensing organization are also required to demonstrate the following:
  • The technical and technological ability to cultivate and produce low-THC cannabis.
  • The ability to secure the premises, resources, and personnel necessary to operate as a marijuana dispensing organization.
  • The ability to maintain accountability of all raw materials, finished products, and any byproducts to prevent diversion or unlawful access to or possession of these substances.
  • An infrastructure reasonably located to dispense low-THC cannabis to registered patients through Florida or regionally as determined by the department.
  • The financial ability to maintain operations for the duration of the 2-year approval cycle, including the provision of certified financials to the department.
  • That all owners and managers have been fingerprinted and have successfully passed a level 2 background screening pursuant to s. 435.04, F.S.; and
  • The employment of a medical director, who must be a physician and have successfully completed a course and examination that encompasses appropriate safety procedures and knowledge of low-THC cannabis.

Upon approval, a dispensing organization must post a $5 million performance bond. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is authorized to charge an initial application few and a licensure renewal fee, but is not authorized to charge an initial licensure fee.

An approved DO must also maintain all approval criteria at all times. Beginning on July 7, 2014, the Department of Health (DOH) held several rule workshops intended to write and adopt rules implementing the provisions of s. 381.986, F.S., and the DOH put forward a proposed rule on September 9, 2014.
This proposed rule was challenged by multiple organizations involved in the rulemaking workshops and was found to be an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority by the Administrative Law Judge on November 14, 2014. See Costa Farms, LLC. vs. Department of HealthCase No. 14-4296RP (November 14, 2014).
After that decision, the Department of Health (DOH) held a negotiated rulemaking workshop in February of 2015, which resulted in a new proposed rule being published on February 6, 2015, which was known as the CHAPTER 64-4 COMPASSIONATE USE.
The new proposed rule was also challenged. Those challenges included a complaint that the DOH’s statement of estimated regulatory costs (SERC). Another challenge was based on the DOH’s conclusion that the rule will not require legislative ratification. Hearings were held on April 23 and 24, 2015, and a final order was issued on May 27, 2015, which found the rule to be valid.
Those rules took effect on June 17, 2015. The DOH held an application period for DO approval which ended on July 8, 2015. During that time, the DOH received 28 applications for DO approval but so for those applications have not yet been approved.

This article was last updated on Friday, January 19, 2018.

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