Florida Supreme Court upholds state medical marijuana rules

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the state’s medical marijuana distribution system.

Critics have argued the system only allows access to a select few companies, while patients pay higher costs for their medicine.

The high court’s ruling will keep that system in place.

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Christina Cusack is a Florida State University graduate who uses medical marijuana to help her with the pain of multiple sclerosis, but she says it comes at a cost.

“It was like 450 dollars the first time I went,” Cusack says.

She’s one of 560,000 medical marijuana patients in Florida, a number that has grown every year since Florida voters approved the drug.

“We’re starting to see people looking for alternatives to the traditional pharmaceuticals,” Dr. Henry Kirsch of the Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinic of The Villages says.

While the number of patients continues to grow, the strict framework for the delivery of the drug- as set by the state legislature in 2017- has remained in place.

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In addition to selling the drug, medical marijuana dispensaries must also be the ones to grow it, which critics say stifles competition, inflates prices, and runs afoul of the intent of voters when they approved medical marijuana.

“This is everything but a free market,” Attorney Katherine Giddings says. “It has created a monopoly of a few entities.”

In October, lawyers representing dispensaries shut out of Florida’s system argued it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court disagreed, upholding the current framework.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) agrees the system is far from a free market.

“Businesses who are small, who are minority-owned are not able really to overcome many of the financial obstacles to entry,” Rep. Smith says.

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Those obstacles include a 5-million dollar bond for one of the 22 licenses Florida allows to serve a market that numbers more than half a million and growing.

The case was one of the first to make it to the Florida Supreme Court since new justices were appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Legal experts say it shows the court is willing to give wide latitude to the legislature, which could be meaningful in the future.

See the Supreme Court’s full ruling below: