How will DeSantis handle pot questions?
Incoming governor may drop legal fights waged by Scott against medical marijuana
TALLAHASSEE — The advent of a new administration with Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis could bring a sharp turnaround in how Florida officials approach the state’s medical marijuana industry, including challenges to the lawsuits swirling around it.
DeSantis, a Republican who will take office on Jan. 8, is unwilling to continue some of the court battles being waged by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, according to Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez.
When asked where the DeSantis administration stands on the caps on medical marijuana licenses imposed by the Legislature and whether the new governor plans to continue the appeals launched by Scott, Nuñez said DeSantis “has said he’s not interested in continuing that fight.”
“I think he has a different perspective than Gov. Scott. I think he wants the will of the voters to be implemented,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez was referring to the 2016 constitutional amendment, approved by 71.3 percent of Florida voters, broadly legalizing medical marijuana.
A Tallahassee judge recently ruled that a 2017 law aimed at implementing the amendment was unconstitutional. Earlier this year, Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ordered state health officials to begin registering new medical-marijuana operators after deciding the law failed to properly carry out the amendment.
The circuit judge found fault with parts of the law that, among other things, capped the number of marijuana licenses and created a “vertical integration” system that requires marijuana operators to grow, and process cannabis and distribute re-
Dodson’s decision came in a challenge filed by Tampa-based Florigrown LLC, which was denied a license by the state.
Scott’s administration quickly appealed the ruling, and the judge’s order regarding the new licenses is on hold.
The Florigrown case is just one of the marijuanarelated legal challenges Scott’s administration is appealing. The most high-profile lawsuit is a challenge to the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.
The plaintiffs in the case include John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled the 2016 amendment.
It was unclear immediately which legal fights the DeSantis administration might abandon after the former congressman and Nuñez take office on Jan. 8.
“The governor-elect is considering a variety of options on this matter, along with a number of other important issues, and will be discussing these further as we move forward with our transition and administration,” DeSantis transition spokesman Dave Vasquez said in an email.
But, like many others, DeSantis has expressed frustration with delays in the roll-out of the amendment. Nuñez reiterated that frustration this week.A
Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, a Democrat who was once a medical-marijuana lobbyist, called Nuñez’s comments “encouraging” and said she looks forward to speaking with DeSantis “about how we can correctly implement the Constitution as approved by 71 percent of Floridians.”
Fried, a lawyer, played a role in the crafting of the state’s marijuana laws.
“If DeSantis is serious about moving patient access forward, I welcome that wholeheartedly and would love to work with him in any way to get sick and suffering residents of our state the medicine they need,” she said in a statement.
Employees sort medical marijuana products Aug. 15 at the Curaleaf dispensary in Orlando.