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State moves forward on marijuana licenses

State health officials will hold a workshop Aug. 17 to take input on the application process for new medical marijuana licenses.

The workshop, announced Thursday, will deal with one license earmarked for a black farmer who was a member of litigation dealing with federal discriminatory lending practices and four other licenses for applicants seeking entry into the state’s highly restricted medical marijuana market.

The Legislature ordered the new licenses following the passage of a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida. The Legislature passed a law last year that required health officials to issue 10 new licenses, including to applicants who had legal challenges pending as of January 2017 or who had scored within one point of the highest-ranked applicants in five regions.

Last month, the health department issued a license to Nature’s Way Nursery of Miami, Inc., shrinking the number of available licenses, because six of the 10 licenses authorized under the 2017 law have already been doled out.

The law also required health officials to give preference for two licenses to applicants who own facilities that were used to process citrus, the subject of at least one lawsuit. Because of litigation regarding the citrus preference, the department is holding off on accepting applications for the remaining two licenses.

But the state is moving forward with a process for the black farmer’s license and with an application process for four licenses ordered under a different part of the law. The measure requires health officials to grant four licenses after at least 100,000 eligible patients have enrolled in a statewide database, a benchmark that was recently surpassed. Office of Medical Marijuana Use interim director Courtney Coppola told a state legislative panel last month her office expects at least 400 applications for the four slots.

The upcoming application process will be the first opportunity for new operators to try to gain entry to Florida’s booming medical marijuana market, which is projected to generate $2.5 billion in revenue in less than a decade.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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