Florida Judge Lifts Ban on Online Cannabis Ordering

A judge in Florida lifted the ban stopping Leafly and other third-party websites from assisting medical cannabis dispensaries with online patient ordering.

Full story after the jump.

An administrative judge in Florida lifted the ban on Leafly and other third-party websites from assisting medical cannabis dispensaries with online patient orders, according to the News Service of Florida. The lawsuit was filed by Leafly after the Florida Department of Health (DOH) said theirs, and other sites, activities were “directly related to the cultivation, processing and dispensing” of cannabis, which health officials believed was a violation of state law.

Administrative Judge Suzanne Van Wyk disagreed with the state, writing in her ruling that the state must “immediately discontinue reliance on its policy … regarding online ordering of medical marijuana through third-party websites.”

The issue began when Florida Department of Health officials sent out a February 1 memo informing dispensaries the practice of contracting with Leafly and similar sites to process online patient deliveries was illegal and could be punished with a $5,000 fine. The state contended that by relying on the sites to conduct patient orders, providers were violating Florida’s vertical integration law, a market structure recently upheld by the Florida Supreme Court that requires cannabis firms to handle all aspects of cannabis cultivation, processing, and distribution from seed to customer.

Former DOH Chief of Staff Courtney Coppola wrote in the February memo that “contracting with Leafly.com, or any other third-party website, for services directly related to dispensing is a violation of this provision.”

But Van Wyk threw out the policy on the grounds it was an unadopted rule, writing that the memo “does not merely reiterate the statute, but places a construction on the statute that is not readily apparent on its face. The statute does not address third-party websites or online ordering.”

The judge did not go so far as to call the rule invalid as argued by Leafly attorney Seann Frazier, noting she did not have the authority to invalidate the rule completely. However, she would toss out the state’s argument that Leafly lacked standing to file the lawsuit, saying the Seattle-based company “has sustained cancelation of real contracts.”

In an email to Ganjaprenuer, Leafly CEO Yoko Miyashita said she was pleased with the ruling, writing that the company is “thrilled that the courts have sided with safe access to cannabis for patients.

“By allowing services like Leafly Pickup, consumers have greater ability to research in advance prior to purchase and retailers have additional effective means of serving the patient communities,” she said in the statement. “We look forward to working with our partners to restart Leafly Pickup throughout Florida effectively immediately.”

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