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Florida Medical Marijuana Business Licensing Expansion is on the Horizon!

By Sally Kent Peebles

Jul 20, 2022

The wait may soon be over for those wishing to enter the Florida medical marijuana market. The Florida Department of Health's Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) will soon open a general application process for additional medical marijuana treatment center licenses (MMTC Licenses).

Right now, the State of Florida has 22 vertically integrated MMTCs, arguably the most valuable marijuana business licenses in the world. These licenses are so valuable because each MMTC licensee can open an unlimited number of dispensaries, cultivations and processing locations throughout the Sunshine State—a characteristic unique to the Florida program. Five of these licenses were issued via a 2015 application process. The remaining 17 licenses were issued to unsuccessful applicants from that initial process via a settlement agreement with the Department of Health.

In early 2017, the medical marijuana statute was amended to require that an additional 10 licenses be issued via an application process, with another four MMTC licenses issued within six months after the registration of 100,000 active qualified patients in the medical marijuana use registry. Applicant teams were organized. Capital was raised. Hopeful licensees were, well, hopeful. Then, the application process stalled in December 2017 with the filing of the Florigrown lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health, which challenged the constitutionality of Florida's medical marijuana statute.

Flash forward to May 2021. The Florida Supreme Court ruled against Florigrown, much to the chagrin of Florida's cannabis activists.

Florigrown's defeat, however, re-ignited the delayed 2017 MMTC application process. Accordingly, the OMMU announced that there would be two separate application processes for new MMTC licenses.

First, the OMMU would issue a single license to a recognized class member of Pigford v. Glickman, 185 F.R.D. 82 (D.D.C. 1999), or In Re Black Farmers Litig., 856 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2011), known as the Pigford License. Those applying for the Pigford License submitted applications in March 2022, and it is anticipated that the winner of the Pigford License will be announced in the next few weeks.

Secondly, the OMMU will issue up to 22 additional MMTC licenses to applicants that qualify under the current law (the General Application Round), thereby doubling the current number of MMTCs in the state.

While the exact timing of the rule and application release for the General Application Round is unclear, qualified well-funded teams representing local and international interests are betting on some movement by year-end.

Are you interested in joining Florida's cannabis industry as a licensee or ancillary business? VS is ready to help you get started with a full suite of services, including corporate formation, real estate selection, market analysis, regulatory compliance, and more! Contact our Florida team today to discuss.

Sally Kent Peebles is a partner at Vicente Sederberg LLP and a leading voice on cannabis law and policy in Florida. In 2019, she was appointed to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee, which provides advice and recommendations to the department regarding policies and guidance on medical cannabis issues and patient needs and concerns. She currently serves as co-chair of the committee and chair of the Legislative and Legal subcommittee. In 2021, Sally co-founded the nonprofit organization, WISE Florida, which aims to build support for legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult use in Florida.

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