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MedMen paying $53M to enter Florida medical marijuana market

The country’s biggest medical marijuana provider on Wednesday announced it was buying its way into the Florida market.

In a press release, MedMen Enterprises Inc. of Los Angeles said it had agreed to pay $53 million for what’s known in Florida as a “medical marijuana treatment center” license from Central Florida’s Treadwell Nursery.

MedMen management say they will host a conference call about the deal, to be live streamed on their website, at 9 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday.

State records show Treadwell, which has one of 13 active licenses in the state, has “cultivation authorization only.” Florida has a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana.

A Treadwell representative reached Wednesday declined comment.

“As part of the transaction, MedMen will acquire Treadwell Nursery’s cultivation facility on 5 acres in Eustis, and the right to open 25 medical marijuana dispensaries,” the release said.

“For nearly a decade, we have been positioning ourselves to capitalize on enormous market opportunities like this.” MedMen co-founder and CEO Adam Bierman said in a statement. “This acquisition is right in line with our strategy of establishing a presence early on in high potential markets with limited licenses and large populations.

“Florida is the third most populous state in the country with a medical marijuana market estimated to reach $1 billion in annual sales by 2020,” he added. “MedMen has built the best-in-class brand, and we continue to invest in premium assets that solidify our dominant position in the most important cannabis markets in the world.”

Taylor Patrick Biehl, co-founder and policy director of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, said Wednesday’s announcement “clearly demonstrates real interest in the emerging market.”

But, he added, “the devil is in the details as it relates to cannabis stock plays.”

On Wednesday afternoon, MedMen stock (MMEN), which trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange, was $3.89 a share, down a penny from the day’s open. Its 52-week high is $5.73. 

The deal, expected to close within 90 days, “is subject to customary closing conditions, including receipt of state regulatory approvals,” according to the release. “If certain regulatory approvals are not obtained, (MedMen) and Treadwell Nursery will have the right to terminate the agreement.”

Department of Health spokesman, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, said the agency “will review the request once it is received.”

MedMen has operations in California, Nevada and New York, which employ over 800 people and “combined account for nearly half of North America’s addressable legal market,” the company’s website says.

Judge says OK to quick effect of marijuana ruling

No surprise: A Tallahassee judge has decided her ruling to allow patients to smoke medical marijuana in Florida should be effective sooner rather than later. 

In a Tuesday orderCircuit Judge Karen Gievers said her decision will now take effect Monday, according to plaintiffs’ counsel Jon Mills

His clients include Cathy Jordan, a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease who had testified she wouldn’t be alive but for smoking marijuana.

“The judge perceived the urgency here,” Mills said in a phone interview. “There will be people who need to obtain relief, and they either can’t do it or risk committing a crime.”

The state had appealed the decision, which places an automatic ‘stay,’ or hold, on the ruling pending review. Gievers’ latest order lifts that stay.

The state’s attorneys are expected to next ask the 1st District Court of Appeal to reinstate the stay, as they did in the case of Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner, whom Gievers allowed to grow his own marijuana for juicing.

A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health said the agency is reviewing the ruling and “working every day to implement the law.” The agency said medical marijuana is still available to patients.

“Our focus remains with ensuring that patients have access to medical marijuana, and the Florida Department of Health has made significant progress in making this treatment available,” interim communications director Devin Galetta said.

In fact, there are more than 117,00 patients who have access to medical marijuana and over 1,300 doctors are licensed to order this treatment. There are dispensaries located across the state and patients have access to home delivery.”

The latest move doesn’t mean Jordan and others will be able to buy marijuana for smoking anytime soon, however.

As Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen said at a Monday hearing, there is no way now to get medical marijuana for smoking, and even if legal it would have to subject to rulemaking, “which could take several months.”

In other words, smokable medical marijuana still won’t be available as of Monday.

The legal challenge over smoking was organized by Orlando attorney John Morganwho bankrolled the 2016 state constitutional amendment allowing medicinal cannabis.

On Tuesday, he again tweeted to Gov. Rick Scott to drop the appeal: “#SlickRick please follow the law & the will of 72% of the people. Everyday you waste taxpayers’ money w/ this frivolous appeal sick people, veterans, cops, firefighters & cancer patients suffer! Where is your compassion man?”

He ended the tweet with a quote from Tuesday’s order: “There is no likelihood of success by the (state on appeal).”

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Updated 10 p.m. — Morgan sent the following statement to Florida Politics:

“The judge said the choice between breathing and committing a crime was not fair. Rick Scott is wasting taxpayers’ money on this frivolous appeal while veterans, cops, firefighters (with PTSD) and really sick people suffer. This callous meanness has no room in Florida. This act of cruelty will cost him the Senate seat. Medical (marijuana) got 500,000 more votes than he did.”

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Florida Politics’ Danny McAuliffe contributed reporting. 

‘Flower’ fight: Citrus preference sparks medical marijuana rule challenge

A Tampa orchid nursery seeking to break into the medical marijuana market is challenging the Department of Health‘s plan to give a preference in how it awards new licenses to grow the plant.

Louis Del Favero Orchids filed a challenge Friday to a proposed rule from the department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, which regulates the drug.

At issue is a provision in state law that gives preference in granting medical marijuana provider licenses to companies with underused or shuttered citrus factories. It’s part of legislation that implemented the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in the state.

For up to two licenses, according to state law, “the department shall give preference to applicants that … own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana.”

Del Favero says in its filing it bought “facilities that were used in citrus processing specifically for the purpose of converting those facilities for use in processing medical marijuana.”

Now, the company suggests it could have a white elephant on its hands.

The state’s proposed rule, the challenge says, “would provide no additional points to most applicants that qualify for the citrus preference” and “provides no assurance that the preference will actually result in any licenses being issued to applicants” that qualify.

Del Favero also argues that the department goes too far in using the word “property,” rather than “facility” as in law, saying it’s “granting the citrus preference to a broader group of applicants than the statute permits.”

But it’s not clear lawmakers intended on applicants simply buying an old packing plant to take advantage of the preference.

Sen. Rob Bradley—the Fleming Island Republican who sponsored the legislation during a 2017 Special Session—has said the preference was born to benefit longtime citrus producers who took a hit in recent years from the citrus greening malady.

“If you travel parts of the state, it breaks your heart to see these old orange juice factories, jobs lost,” he said then. “Transitioning some of those facilities to something new is good.”

He also told the News Service of Florida last year that “some of those old-line facilities and businesses are deteriorating much like the city of Detroit. This would allow them to have an opportunity to redesign or repurpose their facilities.”

Bradley declined immediate comment when reached Monday, saying he wanted to review the filing.

Added Devin Galetta, interim communications director for the Florida Department of Health: “The department received the petition this afternoon and is in the process of reviewing.”

Del Favero is no stranger to marijuana litigation.

In one instance, it filed to intervene in a lawsuit last year by Sarasota’s Tropiflora, which argued the citrus preference was an “unconstitutional special advantage” that puts the company at a “disadvantage” in competing for licenses to be what the state calls a “medical marijuana treatment center.”

That suit had been set for trial later this month, but Tropiflora withdrew it without explanation in May.

Judge will decide on lifting ‘stay’ in smokable marijuana case

A Tallahassee judge on Monday did not immediately rule on whether to immediately make effective her ruling to allow patients to smoke medical marijuana in Florida. 

After a nearly hourlong hearing, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said she’d take the plaintiffs’ request “under advisement” but added she would make a decision “as quickly as possible.”

Gievers also asked plaintiffs’ attorney Jon Mills if his clients would object to holding off for a short time before she lifted a ‘stay‘ on the decision. Mills said OK to a week’s delay.

His clients include Cathy Jordan, a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease who had testified she wouldn’t be alive but for smoking marijuana.

The judge on May 25 overturned part of a law passed last year by the Legislature that prohibited patients with “qualifying medical conditions” from smoking medicinal cannabis.

She had agreed with the argument that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

“It seems the constitutional argument is clear,” Mills told Gievers. “It’s simply not possible for a statute (and thus, legislators) to substitute its judgment for that of the constitution.”

Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen countered that there is no way now to get medical marijuana for smoking, and even if legal it would have to subject to rulemaking, “which could take several months.”

In other words, even if the stay was lifted, smokable medical marijuana wouldn’t be “immediately” available.

A state law, known as an “implementing statute,” aimed to carry out the 2016 constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana for a wide range of patients. Lawmakers, however, banned smoking. That quickly drew a legal challenge organized by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

He bankrolled the amendment and put together what he calls the ‘no smoke is a joke’ lawsuit. Morgan called on Gov. Rick Scott last week to drop the appeal. Morgan did not attend Monday’s hearing.

The Florida Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, appealed Gievers’ ruling on allowing smokable marijuana, which led to an automatic stay of her ruling. The plaintiffs then filed a motion seeking to vacate the stay.

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Background contributed by The News Service of Florida. 

Hearing set in smokable medical marijuana lawsuit

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers will hear arguments this morning about lifting an automatic stay of a ruling that would allow patients to smoke medical marijuana.

Gievers on May 25 overturned part of a law passed last year by the Legislature that barred patients from smoking medical marijuana.

The law was designed to carry out a 2016 constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana for a wide range of patients, but the smoking ban quickly drew a legal challenge.

The Florida Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, appealed Gievers’ ruling on allowing smokable marijuana, which led to an automatic stay of the ruling.

The plaintiffs then filed a motion seeking to vacate the stay. Gievers will consider that request at a hearing today at 9 a.m., in the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee.

She had agreed with the argument that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

Orlando attorney John Morgan has called on Gov. Rick Scott to drop the appeal. Morgan bankrolled the amendment and organized what he calls the ‘no smoke is a joke’ lawsuit.

“How much more money is the state of Florida going to spend chasing (its) tail?” he said in a news conference last week.

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Background contributed by Tallahassee correspondent Jim Rosica. 

Bill Nelson a hard no on adult use cannabis legalization

Cannabis legalization is approaching consensus in the Democratic field for Florida governor, but U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is maintaining a ‘Just say no’ policy.

Speaking to media in Jacksonville on Friday, Nelson was asked if he aligned with the growing consensus among the Democratic candidates for liberalization of cannabis laws, including decriminalization, legalization, and removing the plant from Schedule 1.

“That’s a fancy way that you’ve asked me ‘Do I agree with recreational marijuana’, and the answer is no,” Nelson said, breaking from hisa usual pattern of essayist expositions when answering questions.

Nelson, unprompted, broached the subject of medical marijuana by way of tweaking Gov. Rick Scott.

“This question of him trying to torpedo the constitutional amendment for medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor,” nettled Nelson, who has been messaging statewide on this issue, including advocacy of smokable medical cannabis in Tampa Thursday.

Nelson’s paradox: his measured support of medical cannabis is out of step with a more liberal approach among other Democrats with statewide profiles. While he may score points against the Scott position, his opposition to rescheduling cannabis won’t excite many activists.

John Morgan calls on Rick Scott to drop medical marijuana appeal

Saying “this madness has to end,” Orlando attorney John Morgan called on Gov. Rick Scott to drop the hastily-filed appeal of a decision allowing medical marijuana to be smoked in Florida.

Morgan spoke at a Tuesday news conference that was streamed live on Facebook.

In a 22-page order released Friday, Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said that the ban on smoking is “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016.

Gievers agreed with the argument that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

The state filed a notice of appeal within minutes of the decision’s release. 

“How much more money is the state of Florida going to spend chasing (its) tail?” Morgan said. He backed the amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, and filed the lawsuit against the ban. 

” … I really believe that Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something that he does not have to do.” The term-limited Naples Republican now is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Scott is “going to have to explain to veterans and really sick people and people who have really bad injuries why (he) kept this (case) going,” Morgan said. ” … Rick Scott is the boss and the buck stops there, with the man wearing the Navy hat.”

The state regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, under the Department of Health, the named defendant in the case. It reports to Scott.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Scott signed into law an implementing bill for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked. It does allow edibles, oils and ‘vaping,’ among other uses.

That statute now must be “stricken,” Gievers said, as “unconstitutionally inconsistent.”

“Anybody that gets upset if he decided to drop this appeal, they’re not going to vote against him,” Morgan said. ” … I believe Gov. Scott has a political chance to make a huge dent … Imagine the headlines tomorrow: ‘Great Scott: Gov. Scott drops medical marijuana appeal.’ I think he gains five points overnight.”

Assuming the governor presses forward, “the fight goes on,” Morgan said. “They did not count on a person like me. Thank God I have the resources … Thank God I hate to lose.”

Judge strikes down ban on smoking medical marijuana

Quoting George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, a Florida judge has ruled that the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional.

In a 22-page order released Friday, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said that the ban on smoking is “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016. A one-day trial was held last Wednesday. 

The ban “prohibits a use of medical marijuana that is permitted by the amendment: smoking in private,” she wrote. The suit is against the Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Health Department spokesman Devin Galetta said the agency will appeal the ruling, which will put an automatic delay on its effect. 

“This ruling goes against what the Legislature outlined when they wrote and approved Florida’s law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority,” he said in an email.

The amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, was spearheaded by Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who filed the lawsuit against the ban. 

“When I start something I finish it. Truth prevails!! The voters will be done!! #BELIEVE #ForThePeople #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” he tweeted Friday. 

Gievers agreed with argument from plaintiff’s counsel Jon Mills that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

In an email to Florida Politics, Morgan called the decision “a huge win for Floridians.” He sat at counsel’s table but did not participate in last week’s trial.

“I hope and pray that Gov. (Rick) Scott and (Attorney General) Pam Bondi don’t appeal this win for the people,” he added. “I think this could be a major issue in the U.S. Senate race. It has all drug out long enough.

“…Let the people find compassionate care while they recover and also while they die in dignity,” Morgan said. Representatives for Scott and Bondi were not available Friday evening.

But Kim Rivers, CEO of Florida medical marijuana provider Trulieve, late Friday said her company “stands ready to provide Florida patients (with) full flower cannabis” that can be smoked: “We look forward to guidance from the Department of Health on next steps to approve this next form of medicine for patients.

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Gievers began by quoting Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address that people have the right to “make and alter” their constitutions, which are “sacredly obligatory upon all.” She added a line from Jefferson that written constitutions should be not be made “blank paper(s) by construction.”

The Legislature’s ability to pass laws is not “unfettered,” the judge wrote, in that lawmakers can’t “overrule or ignore the ‘sacred obligation’ referred to by President Washington.”

“Just as no person is above the law, the Legislature must heed the constitutional rights Floridians placed in the Constitution in 2016,” Gievers wrote.

The judge noted that “no legislation is needed to implement the Amendment,” but that if lawmakers chose to pass laws related to it, those acts must be “consistent with” the amendment.

Because the amendment doesn’t require the “accommodation” of smoking marijuana in public, Gievers reasoned – as did Morgan and Mills – that “the ability to smoke medical marijuana was implied in this language and is therefore a protected right,” the order says.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked. House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero, who sponsored the measure, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however. Rodrigues couldn’t be reached.

That statute now must be “stricken,” Gievers said, as “unconstitutionally inconsistent.”

Gievers also called “compelling” testimony from plaintiff Cathy Jordan, a Manatee County woman who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, uses a wheelchair and struggles to speak. She testified at trial that she’s been smoking marijuana since the late 1980s: “I figured, ‘what the heck, what’s it gonna do, kill me?’ “

“Qualifying patients,” including Jordan, “have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places,” the judge wrote.

Gievers, elected to the circuit bench in 2010 from private practice, also recently ruled in favor of Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner, whose lung cancer is in remission. He sued to be able to grow his own marijuana to make juice of it. The state is now appealing that ruling. 

Supreme Court takes initial pass on ‘home grow’ case

The Florida Supreme Court has turned down a request from Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner to let him immediately pursue growing and juicing his own marijuana.

The court on Friday denied his petition to remove a delay of the effect of a lower court’s ruling. The case now is under review at the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Friday’s 1-paragraph order says Redner had “failed to demonstrate” that getting involved now was “necessary to protect this court’s eventual jurisdiction or to prevent irreparable harm.”

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had tried to make her order last month immediately applicable.

It confirms that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has the right to ‘home grow’ under 2016’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. His doctor says juiced marijuana is the best way to keep his cancer in remission. 

The Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, appealed. That caused the delay of the effect of Gievers’ ruling. The state says only licensed medical marijuana providers can grow cannabis in Florida.

Luke Lirot, Redner’s attorney, has said the state erroneously argues that the amendment doesn’t mean what it says: That qualified marijuana patients can grow their own.

The state’s legal definition of “cannabis” says it’s “all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not (and) the seeds thereof,” which Lirot says bolsters Redner’s case.

Redner, owner of the Mons Venus nightclub, is a vegan. Gievers’ order limits him to no more than eight ounces or raw marijuana daily, based on his doctors’ recommendations. It applies only to Redner and allows him to “possess, grow and use marijuana” only for juicing.

Health spokesman Devin Galetta has said the agency “fully expects Judge Gievers’ ruling to be reversed on appeal.”

State files to block effect of ‘home grow’ ruling

The state’s Department of Health says a trial court made an “erroneous conclusion” that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner has a constitutional right to homegrown, juiced (medical) marijuana.”

But Redner’s attorney says the state simply continues to argue – also erroneously – that the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana doesn’t mean what it says.

The department filed a response Friday to Redner’s request to the state’s Supreme Court to allow him to immediately pursue growing and juicing his own marijuana.

He won a decision, now under appeal, from Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last month that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has an immediate right to ‘home grow.’ His doctor says juiced marijuana is the best way to keep his cancer in remission, though the state countered he “also acknowledged the lack of scientific research to support this claim.”

But the state appealed to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which reinstated a delay of the effect of the ruling while the case is under review there. Redner asked that court to expedite the appeal.

The Health Department regulates medicinal cannabis through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

In its response, the department’s lawyers in part argued that under the “definition of ‘medical use,’ a qualifying patient is not entitled to cultivate (i.e., grow) or process marijuana because the words ‘cultivate’ and ‘process’ are not included” in the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2016.

“Instead, the right to cultivate and process medical marijuana is reserved for” authorized medical marijuana providers, it says.

But the state’s definition of “cannabis” says it’s “all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not (and) the seeds thereof,” which Redner says bolsters his case.

While he awaits the appeal, he’s also asking Gievers to order the state to reimburse his legal costs — including $16,000 for PowerPoint presentations — because he won the lawsuit. The state later asked that the costs request be held “in abeyance” pending the appeal.

Health spokesman Devin Galetta has said the agency “fully expects Judge Gievers’ ruling to be reversed on appeal.”

Luke Lirot, Redner’s attorney, said he “disagrees with the department’s arguments” and said the stay should be lifted. 

“We have an important constitutional issue that will invariably be before them, coupled with (Redner’s) emergent medical condition,” he said. “… Time is of the essence.”

Redner, owner of the Mons Venus nightclub, also is a vegan. Gievers’ order limits him to no more than eight ounces or raw marijuana daily, based on his doctors’ recommendations. It applies only to Redner and allows him to “possess, grow and use marijuana” only for juicing.

Friday’s full 22-page filing is here.

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