click to enlarge Businesses seeking to enter Florida’s pot industry warned state health officials Thursday of numerous flaws in a proposed rule that would expand the number of medical marijuana operators but could lead to further delays in a process that’s already months overdue.
A hearing about the proposed rule came more than seven months after a legislatively mandated Oct. 3 deadline for the Department of Health to issue new medical-marijuana licenses, in what could be one of the country’s largest cannabis markets.
The proposed rule, released more than three weeks ago, set in motion the application process —- considered far behind schedule by many legislators —- for four highly sought-after licenses.
But the issues identified Thursday signaled possible legal or administrative challenges that could further postpone the issuance of licenses.
Lawmakers ordered the new licenses after voters approved a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized marijuana as a treatment for patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and multiple sclerosis.
Under a 2014 law that allowed limited types of medical cannabis, the Department of Health had awarded some licenses before the constitutional amendment passed. But the Legislature last year gave state health officials until Oct. 3 to grant 10 new licenses to marijuana operators who meet certain requirements, including applicants who were involved in litigation prior to January 2017.
In marijuana legislation this year, lawmakers did away with the Oct. 3 deadline —- months after it had passed.
The state thus far has issued licenses to 13 operators, including a handful of new operators who met the criteria laid out in the 2017 law, but has yet to begin accepting applications for four new licenses to potential vendors who may not have participated in the process before.
The law requires one of the new licenses to go