Florida's largest medical marijuana licensee has settled a lawsuit with the state over how many dispensaries it can open.
The settlement, announced Monday, will let Trulieve open up to 49 dispensaries in the state.
The settlement follows a court ruling that the state's cap on dispensaries is unconstitutional. The Florida Department of Health is appealing that ruling but reached a settlement with Trulieve, which brought the original case.
The settlement ensures that the 14 dispensaries Trulieve opened before the cap was enacted will not count towards its total.
“This is not a victory for Trulieve – it’s a victory for Florida’s patients,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said. “Our suit was first and foremost about patient access. Thanks to this resolution, we will have the ability to open stores in locations where patients live, which will allow us to fulfill our goal of reaching every patient as efficiently, safely, and consistently as possible, including and especially those in more rural areas.”
The company currently operates 27 dispensaries and would have been held to 35 dispensaries without the settlement.
The limits are based on the number of patients in the state who are registered to receive the treatment.
Quincy-based Trulieve challenged the limit on the number of storefronts that was included in a 2017 law aimed at carrying out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.
The cap, initially set at 25 dispensaries for each operator, gradually increases as the number of eligible patients in a statewide database increases. The cap, now at 35, is slated to end in April 2020.
Trulieve, which currently operates 26 dispensaries, argued the restriction “arbitrarily impairs product availability and safety” and “unfairly penalizes” pot providers.
Trulieve also argued that the cap was problematic because it was imposed after the company had already opened 14 retail locations throughout the state. Trulieve said it would have chosen different locales had it known the number of storefronts would be limited, the company’s lawyers argued.
Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers agreed, finding that the voter-approved constitutional amendment included no caps on the number of dispensaries.
“The evidence clearly and conclusively establishes beyond any doubt that conveniently located medical marijuana dispensaries (as opposed to vehicle delivery, the only allowed alternative means of dispensing) promote authorized users’ improved access to medical marijuana products and related information and services, at lower cost, and promote public safety (the stated goals for regulation in the amendment),” Gievers wrote in a February ruling. The February decision followed up on a January order that also found the dispensary limit was unconstitutional.
In a joint motion filed Monday, the state and Trulieve notified the appellate court that “the parties have reached a settlement under which both parties have resolved the dispute and agree that the final judgment should be vacated.”
If the appeals court grants the request to vacate Gievers’ order, only Trulieve, and not any of the state’s other medical marijuana operators, would be allowed to have the extra dispensaries.
The News Service of Florida Contributed to this story.