mccrory's medical marijuana / Credit: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

A medical cannabis patient’s supply of medicine in their home. / Credit: Sonya Yruel, Drug Policy Alliance

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has agreed to issue the seventh license to grow medical cannabis. The decision, filed on Dec. 18 by the state Division of Administrative Hearings, gives McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery of Eustis ( the right to grow the cannabis.

Initially, Knox Medical of Winter Garden won the exclusive right to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes in Central Florida because it had earned the highest aggregate score on its application: 5.5458. There were seven applicants from the central region of the state.

McCrory’s earned 5.5417, a tiny bit below Knox’ score. But a lawsuit McCrory’s filed late in 2015 said that one of the three reviewers wrongly gave the grower a 6 instead of a 7 in one of the categories. That would have earned the nursery a higher ranking than Knox, so McCrory’s should have been awarded the right to grow medical cannabis, its lawyers argued.

The agreement, between McCrory’s and the state Department of Health, says that the nursery will drop all court and administrative challenges and that each side will pay its own legal fees and costs. (Knox Medical keeps its license to grow.)

In June, DOAH ruled against McCrory’s Sunny Hill Nursery

In the June 3, 2016, “order of dismissal” denying McCrory’s petition to gain a license, the Division of Administrative Hearings ( wrote “The Department evaluated the central region applications, which were assigned scores pursuant to the Department’s process … The Department determined that another applicant, Knox … achieved the highest aggregate score, and therefore, should be approved as the single DO (dispensing organization) for the central region.”

McCrory’s subsequently, and successfully, appealed that decision.

Medical-cannabis use to explode

Many in the medical-cannabis industry predict that the number of patients who qualify to receive the medication will skyrocket. One of the reasons for that expectation: Amendment 2 allows physicians a lot of leeway.

Its summary, as shown on the Nov. 8 ballot, reads that the amendment “Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician” (italics added). In other words, a doctor can order medical cannabis for illnesses that are not named specifically in the amendment.

Legislators, DOH must enact laws, create regulations

The regular 2017 session of the Florida Legislature begins March 7. The topic of medical cannabis is expected to be especially contentious, since legislators must deal with a variety of cannabis-related issues.

In addition, the state Department of Health must draft rules and regulations governing the implementation of Amendment 2.