The largest Medical marijuana operator in Florida has received a green light to open more dispensaries after the State Health officials dropped an appeal of the ruling by Tallahassee judge. This is after a case seeking to challenge a limit on the number of medical marijuana businesses, which was included in the 2017 state law that broadly legalized marijuana was filed by Quincy based medical marijuana company, Trulieve.
Initially, the cap was set at 25 storefronts for each operator, but it later increased gradually with the number of eligible patients in the statewide database. With the cap now at 35, the latest development is now good news for medical cannabis businesses and patients as the limit is slated to end in April 2020.
According to Trulieve, which now runs 26 dispensaries, “the state law arbitrarily hinders product availability and safety” and “unfairly penalizes” cannabis providers.
“The cap was also problematic as it was imposed when we had already opened 14 retail locations across the state. If the company had known about the cap earlier, it would have chosen other locations,” argued Trulieve lawyers.
Judge Karen Gievers from Leon County Circuit agreed that the approved constitutional amendment did not have any limits on the number of dispensaries.
“The evidence tabled by the company’s lawyers clearly and conclusively established that medical cannabis dispensaries located at convenient places and enhanced access to medical marijuana products. Moreover, it also improved access to services and related information at lower cost and promoted public safety,” wrote Gievers in his February ruling. The ruling came after the January order that also established that a limit on the number of dispensaries was unconstitutional.
Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers and Courtney Coppola (the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director) signed a settlement agreement on Friday, which comes 6 weeks after a notice of appeal was filed in the case with the 1st District Court of Appeal by the Department of Health.
With the agreement, Trulieve is allowed to operate 49 dispensaries, which includes the 14 dispensaries already in operation plus 35 dispensaries in the state law before 2020 when the cap will be suspended permanently.
On Monday, Trulieve and the state filed a motion notifying the appellate court that they had reached an agreement under which they resolved the dispute and agreed that the appeals court should vacate the final judgment.
If the request to vacate the judgment is granted, it is only Trulieve that will be allowed to have extra dispensaries but not any other medical cannabis operators in the state.
Rivers described the settlement as “a victory for Florida’s patients” in his statement on Monday.
“Our legal suit focused on patient access and revolved around the caps, which meant that we had to build up a distribution model based on the statutorily-mandated geographic distribution rather than patients’ place of residence, restricting patient access to the much-needed relief and effectively driving up costs,” clarified Rivers.
With the removal of the caps, Trulieve now has the ability to open more stores in places where patients live, which the CEO believes that it will fulfill the company’s goal of safely, consistently and efficiently reaching every patient, including mainly those in rural areas.
Moreover, Trulieve made other news recently that the North Florida Company was the first medical marijuana operator to make whole-flower cannabis readily available patients. North Florida Company controls more than 60 percent of the medical marijuana market in the state. The Tallahassee sale on March 21 came a few days after the signing into law of a measure repealing the ban on smokable medical marijuana by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Today, Trulieve is among the six medical marijuana operators that are authorized to sell whole-flower cannabis to patients.