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Judge backs steep fee hike for Florida medical marijuana operators

An administrative judge in Florida gave the thumbs-up to a new rule adopted a year ago by state regulators that boosted the biennial license renewal fee for medical marijuana companies in the state by more than twentyfold, to $1.3 million.

Administrative Law Judge William Horgan said the renewal fee “carries out to the letter” a legislative mandate that was supported by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to the Orlando Weekly.

Last year, the governor called for steep fee increases for MMJ companies in Florida, arguing the state should charge licensees and applicants “an arm and a leg.”

Sanctuary Cannabis, a vertically integrated operator with multiple dispensaries in the state, argued in a petition that the fee hike was “an exponential increase” from previous assessments and asked for an administrative hearing with the health department.

The fee increase was more than 22 times the $60,000 biennial fee operators have been paying for license renewals since the program launched six years ago.

In his ruling, Horgan found the fee reflects the “plain language” of lawmakers’ intent, according to Orlando Weekly.

Sanctuary – which also has operations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and recently secured a provisional retail license in New Jersey – called the new fee “wholly without logic or reason,” saying it fails to account for the tens of millions of dollars the state collects from patients for their MMJ cards.

The legal brouhaha comes as a new poll from the University of North Florida shows that two-thirds of registered Florida voters would support a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana sales and possession.

A vote on the referendum, which faces a legal challenge from Florida’s solicitor general, is scheduled for November 2024.

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