Friday, August 11, 2017

Another nursery will join Florida's growing marijuana industry

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 9:51 AM


A longtime Jacksonville nursery has received approval for a coveted medical-marijuana license, as state health officials continue carrying out a new law that resolved key issues about the rapidly emerging cannabis industry.

Loop's Nursery & Greenhouses, Inc. and the Florida Department of Health have reached a settlement to end a legal dispute about the license, according to documents posted Thursday on the state Division of Administrative Hearings website. The settlement brings to 12 the number of firms approved to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

The Department of Health this week also gave approvals to Arcadia-based Sun Bulb Company and to GST Enterprises, which owns Eustis-based Treadwell Nursery.

The flurry of activity came about two months after lawmakers approved a bill to implement a November constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in the state. The bill addressed major issues such as how many firms would receive potentially lucrative licenses and how many retail dispensaries they would be able to operate.

Loop's effort to get a license started under a 2014 law that allowed the use of non-euphoric cannabis for limited types of patients, such as children who suffer from epilepsy. The law, widely viewed as a precursor to broader medical-marijuana legalization, created a process to award one license in each of five different regions of the state.

But competition for those licenses spurred extensive litigation, including a challenge filed by Loop's, which did not receive a license in the Northeast Florida region. In October 2016, an administrative law judge ruled against Loop's, ultimately leading the nursery to take the issue to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

The case remained pending at the appeals court when lawmakers during a June special session approved the medical-marijuana bill, which was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

In seeking to increase the number of medical-marijuana operators, lawmakers directed that licenses be issued to businesses whose applications were reviewed and scored by the Department of Health and who were denied licenses, or who had administrative or judicial challenges pending as of January. The law also required health officials to issue licenses to applicants who had rankings within one point of the highest applicants in their regions.

In an affidavit submitted as part of the new settlement, David Loop, chief executive officer of Loop's Nursery & Greenhouses, said his business met the bill's criteria for receiving a license.

State Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who is secretary of the Department of Health, signed an order Tuesday adopting the settlement and approving Loop's to be licensed, according to the documents posted Thursday. The settlement gave the department 10 days from the time of the order to formally license and register Loop's as what the state calls a “medical marijuana treatment center.”

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