Florida Rule Sets the Stage for Upcoming Medical Marijuana Treatment Center License Application Round

By Sally Kent Peebles

Dec 19, 2022

The wait is finally over! The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use released Emergency Rule 64ER22-9 and the MMTC license application on December 19, 2022, setting the stage for how the department will handle the highly anticipated upcoming Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) license application round.

MMTC licenses are arguably the most valuable marijuana businesses in the world, each one allowing unlimited cultivation, processing and dispensing locations. This morning’s application rule release is a welcome development for those parties who have been patiently waiting to participate in the Sunshine State’s marijuana industry.

Florida's medical marijuana program has been stalled for several years, keeping the number of MMTC licenses at 17. For historical context, in 2014, the Florida legislature passed a low-THC cannabis law that allowed patients with a limited number of qualifying conditions to access low-THC cannabis and cannabis products. In 2015, five vertically integrated dispensing organization licenses were awarded and the very limited program was then expanded in November of 2016 when voters passed Amendment 2. Amendment 2 increased the array of qualifying conditions and gave patients access to full-strength medical cannabis. The Florida legislature then passed Senate Bill 8-A in 2017, which implemented the Amendment but restricted the original initiative by requiring vertical integration, limiting licenses at the state level, and prohibiting the sale and smoking of whole-plant cannabis flower. Then, in March 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill amending the Rule to allow the smoking of whole-plant cannabis flower.

Pursuant to 64ER22-9, the Department plans to issue future MMTC licenses via several "batching cycles." The Department will issue an additional informative rule in the future, which will lay out the application window for the batching cycles. It will also include the available number of MMTC licenses to be issued in each batching cycle. This highly anticipated "window application rule" is expected to be released in the next couple of weeks.

As part of the upcoming MMTC application process, the Department will require a non-refundable application fee of $146,000, due each time an applicant applies. Among other requirements, MMTC applicants must have been registered to do business in Florida for at least five consecutive years prior to submitting the application, must hold a nurseryman certificate from the Department of Agriculture, and are required to have a qualified medical director on staff. 

Notably, a group called Safe and Smart Florida is gathering signatures for a November 2024 ballot initiative to legalize adult-use cannabis. The initiative, heavily backed by the largest MMTC in Florida, Trulieve, will need to gather almost 900,000 signatures and pass Supreme Court muster before Florida voters have a chance to place their vote in support of ending cannabis prohibition in the Sunshine State.

VS is currently taking on clients for the corporate, real estate and regulatory legal work related to the upcoming Florida medical marijuana application process. If you are interested in entering the exciting Florida market, please reach out to VS attorney Sally Kent Peebles at sally@vicentesederberg.com or 904-351-8558.

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