Information about investors and partners in medical-marijuana businesses is not a trade secret and should be disclosed under Florida's public-records law, an appeals court ruled Friday.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected arguments by Surterra Florida, LLC, Alpha Foliage, Inc. and Redland Nursery, Inc. that information identifying investors and partners — submitted as part of license applications to the Florida Department of Health — should be shielded from release because it is a trade secret. Alpha Foliage and Redland Nursery submitted applications, while Surterra Florida is a “contractual agent” for the nurseries, according to Friday's ruling.
The applications, submitted in 2015, sought licenses to grow, process and sell medical marijuana under a law that allows non-euphoric cannabis in the state. Plaintiff Michael Barfield filed a public-records lawsuit in Leon County circuit court after the Department of Health declined to release copies of applications that showed information about the investors and partners and other certain details about the firms.
Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled that the information about investors and partners, along with information about the firms' consultants, should be available. The appeals court agreed on the issue of investors and partners, though it sent the case back to circuit court for more specific findings about the consultant issue.
“We do not rule on whether appellants (the firms) proved that the identities and related information of their consultants are in fact trade secrets,” said the appeals-court opinion shared by judges James Wolf, T. Kent Wetherell and Don Lester. “That determination should be made by the trial court. Rather, we instruct the trial court to make specific findings as to whether the list of appellants' consultants meets each of the requirements found in Florida's trade secret definition. Because appellants did not prove that the names and related information of their individual investors and partners are trade secrets, we affirm the trial court's finding that they do not constitute trade secrets.”