If you remember the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, you will recall how children all over the world were clamoring to receive one of the five coveted Golden Tickets that were being hidden inside candy bars by the reclusive Mr. Wonka. Florida’s High-CBD marijuana dispensary system is turning out to be a lot like that. But this time, it’s the Department of Health that is handing out the five Golden Tickets and it is nurseries across the state who are competing for the chance to receive them.
And it should surprise nobody that, after the five licenses were handed out, the applicants who failed to receive one did not just go quietly into the night. Instead, they headed directly to the Courthouse to file complaints and challenges to the manner in which the licenses were awarded.
Now, a Florida Administrative Judge has rejected one of those challenges. McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery, who recently purchased an 180,000 foot facility to grow and process medical cannabis, had brought the challenge after it narrowly lost its bid for a license. That license was ultimately awarded to Knox Nursery. McCrory’s filed a challenge based upon allegations that scoring errors were made that negatively impacted its application and also argued that the license system amounted to an unconstitutional “special act”.
Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth McArthur rejected the arguments presented by McCrory as being unsupported or as being challenges that must be made outside of the administrative process. It remains to be seen whether McCrory will appeal the ruling or seek review in other courts.
The Department of Health was represented by attorneys from the firm of Vezina, Lawrence and Piscitelli, who have been paid nearly $500,000.00 by the State thus far to handle challenges to the 2014 law which calls for limited access to “high THC / low CBD” cannabis. The law has still not been fully implemented and no patients have received medical cannabis pursuant to the law despite the passage of more than a year’s time.
The five dispensary licenses have been highly sought due to speculation that a much broader medical marijuana law will pass in November, 2016. It is believed by many that the five license holders will have a leg up on the competition if and when that law expands the market for medical marijuana in Florida.