State defends constitutionality of pot law

Two new studies have found a link between frequent cannabis use and increased risk of stroke, as well as a link between cannabis use disorder and increased risk of arrhythmia. (Courtesy of the American Heart Association)

As the state Supreme Court ponders a high-stakes challenge to a 2017 medical marijuana law, attorneys for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration have filed an additional brief disputing that the measure is an unconstitutional “special” law.

The Supreme Court this month heard arguments in the battle about whether the law properly carried out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Florigrown, a Tampa-based firm that has unsuccessfully sought a medical-marijuana license, has challenged the law. But a day after hearing arguments, the Supreme Court ordered attorneys to file briefs about an issue that was not a focus of the hearing.

The order said the issue is whether Florigrown has a “substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their challenge to (a section of the 2017 law) as a special law granting a privilege to a private corporation.” The order did not provide more detail, but Florigrown argued in a January brief that the law “unconstitutionally grants special advantages, benefits, and privileges that only apply to particular entities.”

The Florigrown brief, in part, pointed to a decision by the Legislature to grant licenses to firms that had previously been in legal fights with the Department of Health about getting approval to operate as what are known as medical marijuana treatment centers. A brief filed late Wednesday by the DeSantis administration disputed the company’s arguments about the measure being a “special” law.

“The scheme in (the law) strikes a difficult but intentional balance. It is not a guise for some illicit, commercially narrow purpose, but rather consistent with and part of a scheme of statewide importance and impact,” the administration’s brief said. “Because the MMTC (medical marijuana treatment center) licensure statute has a statewide impact and is reasonably and rationally related to important state functions, Florigrown does not have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its special law challenge.”

The DeSantis administration took the case to the Supreme Court after lower courts agreed with Florigrown that the 2017 law conflicts with the constitutional amendment. The case involves parts of the 2017 law that affect how many companies can get licensed and how they can operate.