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Are you interested in growing commercial cannabis in Florida? Although the application period for medical cannabis cultivators is closed, many opportunities are available for growing hemp in Florida. Here's what you need to know about the state's cannabis cultivation business laws.
In November 2016, Florida voters passed Amendment 2, legalizing medical cannabis possession, use, and sales. Under the new law, patients could use cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation to treat a qualifying condition.
Further reading: How to Get a Medical Cannabis Card in Florida
At first, businesses could apply for standalone MMTC licenses, such as cultivation or retail business licenses, but lawmakers passed legislation requiring vertical integration, meaning companies had to grow, process, and sell their own cannabis.
Cannabis operators have fought against the unconstitutionality of vertical integration, suing the Florida Department of Health (DOH). The Florida Supreme court has ruled in favor of keeping vertical integration.
Currently, Florida has 22 vertically integrated MMTC licenses, each able to open as many retail, cultivation, and processing facilities as needed. Florida has become the largest medical cannabis market and one of the largest markets in the country.
In September 2022, the state issued 1 MMTC license to a black-owned business, the first permit issued since the first licensing round. The DOH plans to provide an additional 22 MMTC licenses through a second licensing round to qualified applicants.
The timeline and requirements for the second MMTC application process have yet to be available. The DOH is currently drafting the rules and regulations.
Florida’s hemp program, started in 2020, is another option for aspiring business owners looking to break into The Sunshine State’s green rush. Hemp business licenses are available through the state’s online Hemp Cultivation Licensing Portal.
Florida’s medical cannabis program is vertically integrated, requiring all cannabis businesses to operate every aspect of the supply chain from seed to sale. Currently, the state of Florida is not issuing any new MMTC permits. A timeline for new licenses has not been released.
Florida’s DOH is drafting new rules for the state’s second licensing round. When the licensing period is open, applicants can apply if they meet the basic business requirements and have paid the initial application fee.
Although the new requirements have not been released, it can be helpful to understand the requirements for the initial licensing round. For the first round of licenses, applicants must have demonstrated:
- For the 5 consecutive years before applying, the applicant has been registered to do business in the state.
- Possession of a valid certificate or registration issued by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- The technical and technological ability to cultivate and produce cannabis, including, but not limited to, low-THC cannabis.
- The ability to secure the premises, resources, and personnel necessary to operate as an MMTC.
- The ability to maintain accountability of all raw materials, finished products, and any byproducts to prevent diversion or unlawful access to or possession of these substances.
- An infrastructure reasonably located to dispense cannabis to registered qualifying patients statewide or regionally as determined by the DOH.
- The financial ability to maintain operations for the duration of the 2-year approval cycle, including the provision of certified financial statements to the DOH.
- All owners, officers, board members, and managers have passed a background screening.
- The employment of a medical director to supervise the activities of the MMTC.
- A diversity plan that promotes and ensures the involvement of minority persons and minority business enterprises, or veteran business enterprises, in ownership, management, and employment, An applicant for licensure renewal must show the effectiveness of the diversity plan with their renewal application.
The DOH has not released application fees for cannabis business licenses. However, application fees may be steep. In 2018, the non-refundable application fee for an MMTC license was $60,830 in the form of a money order or cashier’s check made payable to the DOH.
Growing cannabis requires a comprehensive business strategy that complies with the state’s rules and regulations. Business owners must hire the right personnel, create a business plan, get funding, and choose the right location before applying for a license.
Further reading: The Best Way to Get Started as a Legal Cannabis Grower
Leap into Florida’s cannabis market by enrolling in Cannabis Training University’s Master of Cannabis Certification Program. Our easy-to-use online learning platform lets you learn anytime, anywhere. Our online cannabis business training is available on demand. Enroll today!