A Florida administrative law judge has ruled that the Department of Health broke its own rules when it granted growing and processing licenses for medical cannabis, saying the department favored some applicants over others, according to a Tallahassee Democrat report. The ruling by Judge John Van Laningham, sparked by challenges filed by Plants of Ruskin, applies to 11 counties in southwest Florida, but could reopen the licensing process throwing the nascent industry in disarray.
Laningham ruled that when the Health Department approved the license of Alpha Foliage, they had done so in error, because the company did not meet the 30-year nursery requirement in the medical marijuana law necessary for license approval, and declared that Alpha was not a legal applicant. He also found that the Health Department did not legally “score” the applicants, but instead “ranked” them, running afoul of the rules passed by the legislature.
The Health Department argued that “nursery” could mean the literal ground where the plants are grown or the company which puts the plants in the ground, and that Alpha met the nursery requirements defined as the literal ground.
In his ruling, Laningham said the law “clearly and unambiguously” refers to the “organization” reading, calling the Health Department’s defense “illogical” and “unpersuasive,” saying it “rests upon a mélange of premises” and “manages to combine a non-sequitur, a faulty comparison, and a red herring.”
A DOH spokesperson said the department has not received the judge’s recommendation. They have until Oct. 17 to resolve the issues and convince him they acted legally, or else he could force them to pick a new winner.
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