Three companies vying to enter Florida’s booming medical marijuana industry are seeking court orders to compel the state’s Department of Health (DOH) to explain in administrative hearings why their applications to grow and sell were denied or to grant them licenses by default.
MedPure of Vero Beach, Green Point Research of Fort Lauderdale and VillageDPC of Hollywood filed similar complaints last week in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. All three are represented by the Greenberg Traurig law firm.
The petitions claim the DOH’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) is required to approve or deny applications for licenses to operate as a medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC) within 90 days, but failed to do so within that timeframe.
The complaints state OMMU has since not responded to requests by the companies for administrative hearings to explain why their applications were denied beyond stating – months after the 90-day deadline passed – that it was not considering issuing new licenses without further explanation.
That vagary is unacceptable, the firms maintain, because they filed their license applications after a court ruling declared the state’s cap on MMTCs was unconstitutional.
On Oct. 5, Leon County Judge Charles Dodson ruled the law that caps the number of MMTCs at 14 and requires license applicants be “vertically integrated” – have the capacity to grow, process and distribute – was unconstitutional.
Dodson’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit by Tampa-based Florigrown, which claimed laws imposed by the Legislature in 2017 to implement the voter-approved 2016 constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana unfairly only benefits large corporations.
As of June 28, according to the OMMU, three of the 14 state-licensed MMTCs operate 81 of the 141 dispensaries statewide. The largest, Trulieve, owns a 67 percent share of the state’s medical cannabis sales.
Florigrown’s lawsuit is among a number of legal actions questioning those 2017 laws as companies seek to enter a burgeoning industry that New Frontier Data and Arcview Market Research estimate will generate $250 million in sales in 2019 and $1.6 billion by 2021.
“VillageDPC is twice prejudiced by OMMU’s delay,” VillageDPC’s petition states. “First, it has been prejudiced by OMMU’s failure to act within 90 days on its application for [the MMTC] license. Second, after OMMU acted belatedly to reject its application, VillageDPC now is being prejudiced by OMMU’s refusal to grant a formal hearing on its entitlement to license by default.”
n its petition, MedPure recounts that it applied for an MMTC license on Oct. 19, two weeks after Dodson’s ruling, but didn’t hear back from the OMMU until more than five months later.
In a March 26 letter, OMMU Director Courtney Coppola informed MedPure its MMTC registration application had been rejected because it was “not accepting applications for Medical Marijuana Treatment Center registrations.”
On May 29, MedPure filed for an administrative hearing to challenge the OMMU’s rejection of its application to operate a MMTC.
Its June 27 complaint states MedPure has not received a response from OMMU and is entitled to an administrative hearing under state law.
By failing to respond to MedPure’s October MMTC registration application within 30 days if it needed more information, and through its “failure to approve or deny MedPure’s application within 90 days of receipt,” the company contends it is entitled to the license “by default.”
“MedPure’s substantial interests have been affected by the agency’s untimely decision to reject its MMTC registration application,” MedPure’s complaint claims. “The agency has taken the position that it is ‘not accepting applications for [MMTC] registration.’
MedPure states “material facts that are in dispute” include:
- Whether OMMU was legally required to accept and consider MMTC registration applications during the time period when MedPure’s MMTC registration was pending.
- Whether OMMU “can unilaterally decide that it is not accepting applications for MMTC registrations.”
- Whether OMMU’s decision to reject MedPure’s complete MMTC registration application was lawful.
- Whether OMMU is entitled to a default license to operate as a MMTC.
“MedPure is entitled to a default license … because the [OMMU] allowed more than 30 days to elapse without requesting any additional information from MedPure, and also allowed more than 90 days to elapse without approving or denying MedPure’s MMTC registration application,” the petition states.