Losing Candidates Challenge Selection of Five Florida Cannabis Growers

GFI photo smBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Several nurseries that were passed over for selection for the growth and distribution of medical marijuana by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in November 2015, are now challenging the award of licenses to the five selected Florida cannabis growers.  The deadline to file challenges to the state’s decision came on Monday, December 14, 2015, with many losing candidates taking advantage of the ability to do so.

The licenses issued last month to Hackney Nursery Co., Chestnut Hill Tree Farm LLC, Knox Nursery Inc., Alpha Foliage Inc. and Costa Nursery Farms LLC were in response to the need for approved dispensing organizations per the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014.  Compassionate-use in Florida, legalized the distribution of a noneuphoric strain of marijuana low in THC and high in cannabidiol (CBD) (otherwise known as Charlotte’s Web), for qualifying patients with certain medical conditions causing chronic seizures and muscles spasms, and those diagnosed with cancer.

For more information and to read my previous blog regarding the award of licenses to approved dispensing organizations, click here.

Was the Application Process Fair?

TropiFlora LLC, one of the nurseries combating the DOH’s decision, noted in its petition that the principals of four of the selected growers are actually committee members for the agency responsible for the rule-making governing medical marijuana use in Florida.  TropiFlora argued that such organizations should have been prohibited from submitting applications due to their influential status over the DO application process and requirements.  To read the full petition filed by TropiFlora, click here.

Alpha Foliage (one of the five selected dispensing organizations) has jumped on board as well, challenging the issuance of licensing as to Hackney Nursery.  Alpha Foliage is the lone nursery selected by the DOH not alluded to having participants on agency committees resulting in all of the contention.

Dispensing Organizations: “Problem Child” of Compassionate-Use.

This is not the first time the selection of the dispensing organizations as been at issue.  Since compassionate-use was implemented approximately a year and a half ago, the approval process of cannabis growers has been at the battlefront.  The Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act provided a January 1, 2015 deadline for the DOH to authorize the five regional dispensing organizations.  However, the DOH failed to meet that deadline.  Additionally, a rule challenge brought forth by Baywood Nurseries Co. Inc. in Apopka, Florida halted the process further, pending a formal administrative hearing.

Baywood argued the Proposed Rules of the DOH were an invalid exercise of legislative authority in that the rules enlarged, modified or contravened the specific provisions of law implemented pursuant to section 381.986, Florida Statutes.  Baywood further contended that the Proposed Rules were vague and arbitrary or capricious, and that the imposed regulatory costs could be addressed by the adoption of less costly alternatives.

However, Administrative Law Judge, W. David Watkins, found that the Proposed Rules were a reasonable and rational interpretation of the DOH’s rulemaking authority.  It was noted that while the DOH had been unsuccessful in its first attempt, the efforts put forth upon its second attempt were well-reasoned, deliberative and thorough.

To read the full final order issued by Judge Watkins on May 27, 2015, click here.


What are your thoughts on the process for selection of medical marijuana dispensing organizations?  Is the continued controversy affecting your ability to assist patients who would otherwise qualify for medical marijuana?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Final Order 2 & 64, May 27, 2015.

Bolado, Carolina.  “Fla. Cannabis Growers Challenge Licensing Decisions.”  Law360.  Portfolio Media Inc.: 14 Dec. 2015.  Web.  15 Dec. 2015.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Florida medical marijuana, medical marijuana growers, medical marijuana cultivation, medical marijuana license, Charlotte’s Web, House Bill 307, medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, Department of Health (DOH), Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, medical marijuana regulations, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition, formal administrative hearing

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.


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