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New Florida medical marijuana licenses could come by summer

TALLAHASSEE - Florida could move forward with 22 additional licenses for medical marijuana operators, nearly doubling the size of the state's legal cannabis industry, within the next six months.

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The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director Christopher Kimball offered the tentative timeline after giving a presentation Wednesday about the medical marijuana program to the House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee.

Kimball's office accepted 74 applications for 22 additional licenses during an application period that ended in April, but one of the applicants has since withdrawn, he said. The new licenses are required under a 2017 law that called for boosting the number of licenses as the number of eligible patients, which currently exceeds 850,000, increases.

Rep. Allison Tant, a Tallahassee Democrat who serves on the House panel, pressed Kimball on the issuance of the new licenses.

"What is the status of that process?" Tant asked.

Kimball said the applications "are being reviewed" but he did not have a specific time for when they would be awarded.

"If I rush them and we get sued and lose, then people won't get their licenses. I want to make sure that we've done it right," he said.

But Tant pushed him on the issue.

"I want to make sure we get it right, but at the same time I have constituents in this space who are kind of chomping at the bit. ... Should I tell them it's six months? Should I tell them it's going to be a year? ... What would be the best answer for them?" Tant asked.

Kendall replied, "I would hope we could meet that six months. That would be my hope. Hope is not a plan, but that's what we're working on."

The April round of applications was the first major opportunity for newcomers to the industry to vie for licenses since the 2017 legislation passed. An initial round of licenses was based on a 2014 law that legalized non-euphoric cannabis for a limited number of patients. The state has licensed 24 operators.


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