As most Florida residents are aware, in 2016 voters approved Amendment 2 - the "Medical Marijuana" amendment. It resulted in Article X, Section 29 being added to the Florida Constitution which states in pertinent part: " The medical use of marijuana by a qualifying patient or caregiver in compliance with this section is not subject to criminal or civil liability under Florida Law". Qualified patients were thereby permitted to "acquire, possess use,deliver, transfer, and administer" marijuana in amounts that do not conflict with rules promulgated by the Florida Department of Health.
Thereafter, Mr. Joe Redner, a well known entrepreneur in the Tampa Bay area, filed suit in Leon County seeking a ruling that Article X, Section 29 authorized him, as a qualified patient to not only possess but also to grow marijuana for his personal use. Following arguments by both Mr. Redner and the Florida Department of Health, the trial judge agreed with Mr. Redner, a decision which was quickly appealed to the First District Court of Appeal.
On appeal, the First DCA reversed the trial court, and stated that such an interpretation of Art. X, Section 29 was not supported by the plain language of the Amendment - i.e. that "use" did not include the right to "grow" marijuana, and if the intent was to do so, it should have been clearly included in the language of both Amendment 2 and Art.X, Section 29. See Florida Department of Health v. Joseph Redner, 273 So.3d 170 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019). The issue is not yet closed for good however, as the Florida Supreme Court has accepted jurisdiction to review the case as presenting "an issue of great public importance".
The second case before the Supreme Court involves the business side of legalized marijuana. Florigrown, a Tampa-based medical marijuana company filed suit against the Florida Department of Health based on their denial of Florigrown's application for a license because it did not operate under a "vertical integration" model - meaning the company had to be involved in all stages of the process - from growing to processing to selling marijuana. Arguing that Amendment 2 made no mention of vertical integration, Florigrown has prevailed in the lower courts, which have ruled that "vertical integration" is an unauthorized state-sponsored monopoly which harms the consumer by eliminating competition and lower prices.
As an indication to how this ruling will affect Florida's future marijuana industry, the Supreme Court has already heard three rounds of arguments and has requested additional briefs and argument on a myriad of issues. Will only large companies that can manage every step in the manufacturing and distribution process prevail, or will smaller companies that specialize in only a portion of the process survive? 2021 will most likely provide the answer.
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