TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida nursery and a man who suffers from epilepsy filed a lawsuit last week against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, contending that state officials are flouting the state’s new medical marijuana law.
It’s the latest legal challenge against the way Florida officials and state legislators have acted since voters approved medical marijuana a year ago.
Bill’s Nursery, located in Miami-Dade County, and Michael Bowen want a judge to order the Department of Health to hand out new licenses for treatment centers that were promised in a law passed by the Legislature this past summer. Treatment centers are the only businesses allowed to grow, process and sell medical marijuana in Florida.
The state was supposed to hand out 10 new licenses by October but has only approved six. Officials have blamed the delay on a separate lawsuit challenging another provision of the new law.
Bowen said the department is blocking patients from getting access to medical marijuana.
“In cases like mine, medical marijuana is literally the only thing that can control my seizures and keep me alive,” Bowen said in a statement. “But the Florida Department of Health’s inexcusable foot-dragging is keeping patients like me from getting safe, reliable access to these life-saving treatments.”
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the department, said the state is working “diligently” to implement the new law.
“We remain committed to moving this process forward, and will do so in an expedient and thoughtful manner,” Gambineri said in an email.
Patients who suffered from epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer and terminal conditions were allowed under laws Scott signed in 2014 and 2016 to receive either low-THC cannabis or full strength medical marijuana. The amendment passed by voters last year added people with HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.
But the implementation of the amendment — and the subsequent law that legislators passed to carry it out — have come under fire from the backers of the initial amendment. John Morgan, the trial lawyer who led the charge for the amendment, sued in July because legislators banned smokable forms of the plant.