By Samantha J. Gross

In an affront to Rick Scott-era rules that have cost the state years in court battles, an appellate court issued a ruling Tuesday that the current medical marijuana regulatory system is unconstitutional and inconsistent with Amendment 2, the ballot proposal that legalized medical marijuana.

A 1st District Court of Appeal decision in Tallahassee called the current, vertically integrated system unconstitutional for the way it caps licenses and charges companies with essentially being one-man bands — they must grow, process, package and sell medical marijuana without bringing in businesses to handle different parts of the process.

Critics say licensees may not have the technical or business skills to be effective in all areas, making it an inefficient model for a burgeoning industry.

Tampa-based Florigrown originally sued the Department of Health, which regulates medical marijuana under its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, after being denied approval of a license. The system currently caps the number of facilities — a statute the court called “unreasonable” in its ruling.

The three-judge panel’s ruling upheld in part a 2018 decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who sided with Florigrown in a lawsuit alleging the law did not properly carry out the amendment.

Dodson issued a temporary injunction requiring state health officials to begin registering Florigrown and other medical-marijuana firms to do business, but the judge’s order was put on hold while the state appealed.

In 2016, 71 percent of Floridians voted to legalize medical marijuana on a constitutional amendment largely bankrolled by Orlando attorney and political booster John Morgan.

The amendment defines “medical marijuana treatment centers” as “an entity that acquires, cultivates, possesses, processes … transfers, transports, sells, distributes, dispenses, or administers marijuana, products containing marijuana, related supplies, or educational materials” to qualifying patients or their caregivers, and is registered by the Department of Health.

But the 2017 bill signed into law by then-governor Scott says “a licensed medical marijuana treatment center shall cultivate, process, transport and dispense marijuana for medical use.”

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