Obtaining a Florida Marijuana Growing License
It’s been almost five years since Florida voters passed Amendment 2, the bill legalizing medical marijuana. Since then, over 30,000 cannabis-related jobs have been created, and cannabis sales across Florida now surpass $1.2 billion.
Unfortunately, the process for obtaining a Florida marijuana growing license is anything but straightforward.
In fact, the whole process has been virtually ground to a halt by constantly changing legislation, confusing regulations, and endless litigation.
The good news is that there are promising signs that Florida will issue more licenses in the near future.
There’s more good news: You can take definite steps now to prepare your application for a Florida medical marijuana grower’s license.
After you read this article, your best bet is to give us a call. No matter how tricky your situation, we’ll do our best to help you prepare your business for success.
First Things First: Know the Current Situation
If you want to grow medical marijuana in Florida, a grower’s license is a must. First, you need to understand the current legal landscape regarding medical marijuana. Unlike other areas of law, the only constant in Florida’s medical marijuana industry has been change.
A Brief History of Florida’s Medical Marijuana Laws
Florida Statute § 381.986 is the state’s medical marijuana law. This statute requires anyone growing marijuana to be licensed as a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC). Without an MMTC license, growing marijuana is illegal.
Originally, any business involved in growing or selling marijuana could obtain an MMTC license. Shortly after the passage of Amendment 2, however, Florida’s state legislature passed a bill that required all MMTCs to have “vertical integration.”
This meant that the MMTC couldn’t just grow marijuana and sell it to a distributor. Instead, each MMTC had to be able to grow, process, market, and sell the drug itself. In other words, it had to manage the marijuana “from seed to sale.”
Obviously, this bill made it way more difficult for small businesses to get an MMTC license. Various groups sued the state to change the licensure process. Right now, these lawsuits are still ongoing.
A Shortage of Licenses
Another difficulty of the process has to do with the group that issues licenses. Florida’s medical marijuana statute states that only the Florida Department of Health (DOH) can issue MMTC licenses.
Unfortunately, the DOH hasn’t been great about issuing licenses. In fact, they’ve issued only 22 MMTC licenses to date.
This already complex situation became even more complicated when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Now, you might be thinking about simply buying a license. And technically, you could do that. But because of the critical shortage of MMTC licenses, the going rate for an MMTC with a license is in the millions of dollars.
In fact, a Mount Dora nursery with a medical marijuana license sold for $14 million last year!
While this news may seem discouraging, change is on the horizon. There is at least one ongoing lawsuit that could result in many more MMTC licenses. Members of Florida’s state legislature proposed at least one bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2020. Also, it appears likely that Florida will vote on full marijuana legalization in 2022.
Until then, you can take important steps to prepare and submit your MMTC license.
How to Get a Grower’s License In Florida
The first step in obtaining a Florida marijuana growing license is to meet the minimum requirements listed in Florida’s medical marijuana law. Next, you should prepare additional information that might be required. The third and final step is to pay any required fees.
Step #1: Meet the Basic Legal Requirements
Florida law states that all applicants for an MMTC must demonstrate that they have:
- A business that has been registered in Florida for the past five years;
- A valid nursery certificate of registration from Florida’s Department of Agriculture;
- The technical and technological ability to cultivate and produce marijuana, including low-THC cannabis;
- The ability to secure the premises, resources, and personnel necessary to operate as an MMTC;
- The ability to control all any and all cannabis products, including the raw cannabis plant parts and any byproducts;
- The infrastructure to dispense marijuana to registered qualified Florida medical marijuana patients;
- The financial resources to keep operations going during the two-year approval cycle;
- A medical director to supervise the MMTC’s activities; and
- A diversity plan that ensures the involvement of minority- and veteran-owned businesses.
Applicants must also obtain level 2 background checks for all owners, managers, officers, and board members. This requires each individual to give a full set of fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The best way to get a required set of fingerprints is to visit an approved fingerprint service provider. We’ve added a directory of current service providers here.
Step #2: Prepare Additional Detailed Information About Your Business
In 2018, the DOH proposed an administrative rule that expanded the requirements to get an MMTC license. With that rule, the DOH released an Application for Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Registration. The supporting administrative rule was withdrawn last month, so these exact rules don’t apply at this point. However, it’s possible that future MMTC applications will use similar factors to determine whether a business should receive an MMTC. For that reason, it’s worth reviewing the information in the 2018 MMTC application to look for extra information you can prepare now.
Sixteen Key Areas
In the 2018 application, applicants had to provide written responses demonstrating their knowledge and capabilities in sixteen areas. The DOH then judged those responses and assigned each one a point value.
The maximum points for each section ranged from 50 to 100. The higher the points the applicant received, the more likely their application would be approved.
The whole process was kind of like a high school test.
The sixteen areas listed in the MMTC application, along with the maximum number of points, were:
- Cultivation Knowledge and Experience (50 Points);
- Medical Marijuana Cultivation Plan (50 points);
- Description of the Planned Cultivation Infrastructure (50 points);
- Processing, Extraction, and Workplace Safety Knowledge (100 points);
- Processing Infrastructure (50 points);
- Dispensing Operations and Marketing Plan (50 points);
- Medical Marijuana Dispensing and Patient Interaction (50 points)
- Dispensing Infrastructure (100 points)
- Security of Premises (100 points)
- Security of Operations and Transportation (100 points)
- Description of Medical Director (50 points)
- Description of Cultivation, Processing, Dispensing, and Delivery Staff (50 points);
- Diversity Plan (100 points);
- Provision of Certified Financial Documents (100 points;
- Explanation of Corporate/Business Structure (100 points); and
- Description of All Properties and Facilities (50 points).
Believe it or not, each one of these sixteen sections had its own list of specific topics to know. For example, the first section—Cultivation Knowledge and Experience—required the applicant to demonstrate experience and knowledge relating to ten topics. A few of these topics were:
- Introducing new varieties of plants in Florida;
- Cultivating plants that are not native to Florida; and
- Genetic modification or breeding.
The full list of topics are available in the MMTC application and the DOH’s Evaluation Rubric and Scorecard for MMTC applications. Understanding how your business meets the requirements for these topics will definitely help prepare you for any future MMTC license requirements.
Step #3: Pay the Required Fees
Under the 2018 administrative rule, the application fee for an MMTC license was a whopping $60,830! No matter how the MMTC license requirements change going forward, you should expect to pay a significant fee.
Want More Advice on Obtaining a Marijuana Growing License?
As you can probably see after reading this article, the process for getting a license to grow marijuana in Florida is nothing short of daunting.
But don’t worry. A good cannabis business attorney can help you navigate this tricky and confusing process. They’ll also give you updates as the law changes.
At Groves Law, we care about you as an individual. We support all kinds of budding entrepreneurs and startup business owners. Whatever your business law needs, we’re here for you.
Contact us today.
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