How will DeSan­tis han­dle pot ques­tions?

In­com­ing gover­nor may drop le­gal fights waged by Scott against med­i­cal mar­i­juana

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By Dara Kam

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-

lated prod­ucts.

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.

KYLE ARNOLD/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Em­ploy­ees sort med­i­cal mar­i­juana prod­ucts Aug. 15 at the Cu­raleaf dis­pen­sary in Or­lando.

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