A Florida judge has thrown out a set of rules proposed by the state Department of Health regarding medical marijuana. Although Florida voters rejected Amendment 2 and a broad-based medical marijuana program, Charlotte’s Web, a non-euphoric strand of medical marijuana, has been legal in the state since early June.
The judge was ruling on a lawsuit filed by the south Florida nursery Costa Farms. The lawsuit was challenging the lottery system that the state had planned to use to select the state’s five approved medical marijuana growers.
It was of the opinion of Costa Farms that the lottery system would ensure that the luckiest, and not the most qualified, would be selected. Also at contention was the fact that organizations partnered with qualified nurseries were able to submit multiple growing applications, while the nurseries themselves could only submit one.
In his decision, Judge David Watkins called the rules “vague” and that the proposal “fails to establish adequate standards for agency decisions and vests unbridled discretion in the agency.” Judge Watkins also called the rules “arbitrary” because the proposal “provides for random selection of minimally qualified dispensing organizations, rather than selection by reasonable discretionary evaluation.”
Aside from the lottery system, there was also contention about a provision in the proposal which would have required the medical marijuana to be grown, processed, and sold in the same location. Many contended that that was an unreasonable burden, especially for rural growers; and it seems Judge Watkins agreed.
In a statement, Peter Freyre, the Vice President of Costa Farms, praised the decision: “We feel today’s resolution is the right decision for the state’s sick and suffering patients … their medication should be produced by the best and most qualified applicants, not the luckiest.”
With this ruling, Florida health officials are now forced to go back to the drawing board and form new rules. This delay will all but ensure that Florida will miss its intended goal of January 1 for the roll out of the new program, leaving many patients to have to wait just a little bit longer for their medicine.
It is an unfortunate turn of events for patients, but sadly one that is necessary to ensure a strong and robust medical marijuana plan. A lottery system is a terrible way to give out licenses; if you need proof, look at Washington to see how its lottery played out.
Although this ruling is bad for patients, it is good for business and investment. With a lottery system to dole out licenses, investors would have been better off using their capital to play the actual lottery because odds are you would have seen a better return.
This ruling allows entrepreneurs and investors the opportunity to put their destiny in their own hands and quite possibly take a tiny slice of the small pie that is Florida’s CBD-only medical marijuana program. Looking forward, those that can position themselves in Florida’s medical marijuana program now will be better suited to stake a bigger claim should Florida pass marijuana in 2016.