Medical marijuana firm seeks OK to expand

One of the state’s largest medical-marijuana firms wants to grow bigger.

Alpha Foliage filed a petition last week with the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use seeking to increase its number of storefronts. The company, which operates as Surterra, is asking the state to exempt its 13 original “medical marijuana treatment centers” from a statutory cap that limits the number of storefronts to 35. The cap was put in place by the Legislature in 2017 after Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

The cap expires in April 2020. The state already has authorized a Surterra competitor, Trulieve, to go beyond the cap. In the filing last week, Surterra attorneys asked the state to interpret the law “consistent with the manner it did for Trulieve.”

Surterra operates 23 locations statewide and has additional locations pending for approval. Trulieve successfully sued the state in Leon County circuit court arguing that the restriction on the number of treatment centers “arbitrarily impairs product availability and safety” and “unfairly penalizes” pot providers.

The suit also asserted that dispensary locations initiated prior to enactment of the 2017 law should be grandfathered and not counted toward the statutory cap.

The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use appealed the initial ruling but subsequently reached a settlement with Trulieve in late March. Under terms of the settlement, the state agreed to exclude from the statutory cap the 14 stores that Trulieve operated prior to the broad legalization of marijuana.

Those 14 stores dispensed non-euphoric, low-THC marijuana that was first legalized in 2014. Data posted by the Office of Medical Marijuana Use shows that as of Friday, there were 224,815 active registered medical-marijuana users in the state.

Medical marijuana treatment centers dispense cannabis products to qualified patients and caregivers as recommended by their physicians.