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Medical marijuana company appeals a judge's decision on Florida's license fees

Marijuana plants are seen at a growing facility in Washington County, N.Y., May 12, 2023. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has delivered a recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration on marijuana policy, and Senate leaders hailed it Wednesday, Aug. 30, as a first step toward easing federal restrictions on the drug.
Sanctuary Cannabis has filed a notice of appealing a Nov. 29 decision by Administrative Law Judge William Horgan.

An administrative law judge found the $1.33 million renewal fee to do business in Florida reflects the “plain language” of the Legislature's intent. Sanctuary Cannabis wants another opinion.

A medical marijuana company has gone to the 1st District Court of Appeal in a challenge to a Florida Department of Health rule that led to dramatically increased license-renewal costs for marijuana operators.

Sanctuary Cannabis on Wednesday filed a notice of appealing a Nov. 29 decision by Administrative Law Judge William Horgan that sided with the Department of Health.

As is common, the notice did not detail arguments that Sanctuary Cannabis will make at the Tallahassee-based appeals court.

Department of Health officials late last year adopted a rule that created a formula for establishing a license-renewal fee. The rule boosted renewal costs to $1.33 million, more than 22 times the $60,000 biennial fee paid since the cannabis program began six years ago.

Sanctuary Cannabis filed a challenge, arguing the new fee is “wholly without logic or reason” because it does not take into account tens of millions of dollars from patients who pay $75 a year for identification cards to participate in the program. But Horgan said the fee reflects the “plain language” of the intent of state lawmakers.

A law says the health department must adopt rules “establishing a procedure for the issuance and biennial renewal of licenses, including initial application and biennial renewal fees sufficient to cover the costs of implementing and administering” the medical marijuana program.

The law requires the department to adopt rules setting license fees for operators “which alone are sufficient to cover the costs of implementing and administering this section” of the law, Horgan wrote in a 13-page order.