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Proposed medical marijuana rules already bringing challenges

They haven’t even been approved, but proposed rules on medical marijuana have already drawn legal challenges.

Liberty Health Sciences, a licensed medicinal cannabis provider, is challenging two rules, both debuted only two weeks ago. One is on a “supplemental licensing fee” and another covers a “variance procedure” for medical marijuana treatment centers, or MMTCs, as providers as called in Florida.

Both challenges were filed last week in the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings. “The department will review the challenges,” said Health Department spokesman Devin Galetta in an email.

The fee in question, an “annual payment by a registered (provider) to cover the (state’s) costs of administering” the law governing cannabis, came with a price tag of $174,844.

Liberty’s challenge is that the Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, set the fee too high. That’s because the calculation requires the state’s 13 currently licensed MMTCs “to bear the burden of the supplemental licensure fee when the fee should be borne by at least 17 MMTCs.”

The money from the fee would help fund the Coalition for Medical Marijuana Research and Education within the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa. Lawmakers gave it a mission “to conduct rigorous scientific research, provide education, disseminate research, and guide policy for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for the medical use of marijuana.”

The other rule would “establish a procedure for the Department of Health to grant variances from the representations made in a medical marijuana treatment center’s initial application for registration.”

The idea behind that rule, for one example, was to allow providers who had originally applied to use a certain marijuana processing procedure to later ask to use a newer, better technology.

But Liberty’s challenge suggests it could also cause administrative nightmares by “requiring an MMTC to request a variance before hiring or firing any employee or manager.”

Liberty Health Sciences is a subsidiary of Canadian-based DFMMJ Investments, which itself is partly owned by Aphria, a Canadian producer of medical cannabis products.

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With dispensaries in Summerfield, St. Petersburg, Tampa and Port St. Lucie, the company is represented by The Lockwood Law Firm of Tallahassee.

“We look forward to working with the department on the substance of both rules,” firm principal John Lockwood told Florida Politics. “We’re not generally opposed to the concept of either rule. We’re just concerned with some of the formalities imposed. We want to accomplish both our goal and the department’s goal as well.”

The filings are below.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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