Florida Appellate Court Finds That State’s Restrictions On Medical Marijuana Businesses Are Unconstitutional
On July 9, a Florida appellate court issued a ruling holding that the state’s regulatory system set up for medical marijuana limiting which businesses were allowed to process and sell the substance was unconstitutional and inconsistent with Amendment 2, which passed years ago and legalized medical marijuana. Specifically, first District Court of Appeal held that the current system “vertically integrated” the system by capping licenses and charging companies with having to do everything in one place – grow, process, package, and sell marijuana – without bringing in any other businesses. The court held that this was unconstitutional and in violation of the ballot initiative (amendment) voters passed years ago.
This also means that the practice of capping the number of facilities has been shut down. The judge issued a temporary injunction requiring that health officials begin registering a number of medical marijuana businesses, however, the state does appear to be appealing. Still, according to reports, there were no indications from the judge that the department would have to immediately begin registering applicants, but rather, that it must come up with a new regulatory structure that allows for a “reasonable number of licenses” to be issued.
A Closer Look at How State Statute Fails When It Directly Contradicts an Amendment
To the extent that a statute ever contradicts a right granted under a state or federal constitution, the statute “must fall.” In addition, the state is never allowed to alter the definition of a term that is put forth in a constitution.
In this case, the amendment, as passed, defined a “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center” as one that acquires, cultivates, etc. products or administers marijuana… In other words, the amendment clearly indicated that a single facility did not need to do it all – cultivate, package, sell, etc. Conversely, the Florida Statutes directly contradicted this definition by defining a licensed medical marijuana treatment center as one that “cultivates, processes… and dispenses marijuana for medical use.”
The court also found that the legislature was, in effect, creating an “oligarchy” in picking who could and could not obtain a license, and that too was unconstitutional, as the state may not regulate an industry governed by a constitutional amendment in a way that would severely restrict that industry.
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It is expected that this ruling will dramatically alter the marijuana landscape in Florida. In particular, opening up Florida to accepting that marijuana is a legal substance instead of a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
If you have been accused of any drug crimes in Florida, or have concerns about a civil rights/constitutional violation, contact our experienced Miami and Orlando drug crimes attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.