Florida Judge Sides with State on Medical Marijuana
When the Florida legislature passed a low-THC/high-CBD medical marijuana bill last year, most people expected the system to be set up by now. Unfortunately, implementation of the law has been held up in litigation over a litany of complaints made by Florida’s farmers.
However, the legal gridlock may finally be over as a Florida judge has rejected a lawsuit that has been holding up implementation of the law.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit was Baywood Nurseries Co. Inc, and at the heart of the issue was the regulatory framework of the state’s limited medical marijuana system, developed by the Florida Department of Health.
The regulations were the second attempt on behalf of the DOH to create rules regarding the state’s medical marijuana system. The DOH’s first attempt was thrown out in another lawsuit late last year. Interestingly enough last year’s lawsuit and the one just thrown out were both presided over by Judge David Watkins.
In his decision, Watkins rejected claims that the rules crafted by the DOH were “an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority,” acknowledging that the department is afforded broad discretion in its implementation of the law, calling the department’s efforts a “reasonable, rational interpretation” of its authority.
Watkins also upheld the department’s decision to use a negotiated rule-making process and an appointed committee comprised of various interested parties. According to Watkins, everyone got something they wanted as well as something they didn’t want, which shows the process was as fair as it could be.
On the claims that the application fee for acquiring a license was prohibitively high, the judge also ruled in favor of the state. Baywood Nurseries claimed that the state was required to estimate the application fee on the total cost of the program divided by 99, the number of potential growers in the state.
The state claimed that the number was 15, not 99, and Watkins agreed with the state; mostly because Baywood failed to provide evidence of its claims and also failed to provide an alternative proposal.
Most of the other claims brought forth by Baywood were more or less rejected in the same way. Baywood would make a claim, fail to produce evidence supporting that claim and then the state would produce evidence to support its side of the case.
With this legal victory for the DOH, Florida’s limited medical marijuana program can continue to move forward. The DOH’s Office of Compassionate Use will be accepting applications for licenses from June 17 – July 8, 2015. Barring any other legal interference, qualified patients could have access to medical marijuana by the end of the year.
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