Several legal actions happened this week involving medical marijuana in Florida.
One ruling found that the state can’t limit the number of medical marijuana treatment centers, known as MMTC’s. In other words, that means no caps on the number of dispensaries.
Another involves an appeal over whether medical marijuana can be smoked. A judge ruled that patients should be able to smoke the drug, and the state is appealing that decision.
Additionally, a judge ruled in favor of an orchid grower that wants to have a medical marijuana business.
Attorney John Lockwood of the Lockwood Law Firm in Tallahassee represents medical marijuana operators and would-be operators. He spoke with WFSU’s Gina Jordan.
WFSU: We have a ruling that says the state cannot limit the number of medical marijuana centers. Tell us about that.
LOCKWOOD: This order was in response to a challenge, and the challenge basically said that under Amendment 2 that was passed in 2016 in Florida, that the state had no authority to 1) limit the number of medical marijuana treatment centers, and 2) they could not require that these treatment centers be what’s called vertically integrated. In Florida, what that means is that the MMTC must cultivate, process, and dispense its own medical marijuana. It cannot simply be a dispensary or just a processor or just a cultivator.
WFSU: The Office of Compassionate Use, now the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, is being sued a lot. What are the biggest issues?
LOCKWOOD: This lawsuit that would potentially eliminate the caps (on dispensaries) could have dramatic impacts on the industry. I would say followed behind that – one that is probably near and dear to a lot of patients’ hearts – is whether or not they can purchase smokable marijuana. So that case is ongoing right now, and I think a lot of these lawsuits are probably going to drag on for a couple of years as they work their way through the appellate process.
WFSU: What do your medical marijuana-growing clients want from the state?
LOCKWOOD: Probably one of the biggest hurdles that we’ve had has been dealing with local governments and some of the zoning restrictions. You know, there’s still a lot of municipalities throughout the state that have just enacted complete bans on medical marijuana dispensaries within their locations…
The state passed a law that gave the communities the option to either enact an outright ban, or they could authorize medical marijuana dispensaries provided that their regulations are no more stringent than what’s applicable for pharmacies.
WFSU: Particularly in south Florida, do you think that this could be a response to the pill mill issue? Are communities skittish down there?
LOCKWOOD: If it is, they shouldn’t be. There are a lot of states right now…that are starting to look at medical marijuana as an alternative to the opioid crisis.