Florida DOH Claims Orchid Nursery Has No Constitutional Protection In Marijuana Licenses
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On August 27, 2020, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) argued to the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that a Florida nursery can’t claim the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects its right to marijuana licenses. The DOH urged the appellate court to uphold the dismissal of Louis Del Favero Orchids’ suit because, it claimed, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t cover a property interest in a business that is illegal under federal law. This seems to be a rather hypocritical argument in that the counter-question could be “How can the state of Florida issue licenses for or control a business that is illegal under federal law?”
Is the Law Constitutionally Protected?
The would-be medical pot nursery operator has been fighting since 2016 to get one of the state’s few medical marijuana licenses. It has been involved in ongoing litigation in state court over Florida’s medical marijuana licensing process.
The nursery claims that the U.S. Constitution protects a property right to the licenses even if Congress has outlawed marijuana because the right itself is created by state law. In its suit, Louis Del Favero Orchids said that the property right itself originates in Florida state law, specifically, the law that legalized medical marijuana. Federal law can only determine “whether a given property interest rises to the level of a protected property interest,” the nursery argued in its brief.
According to the nursery’s brief, it sought damages and an injunction requiring the state of Florida to grant the company a hearing on its application for a medical marijuana license. You can read the nursery’s brief here.
Property Right in the “Process of” the Issuance of a Medical Marijuana License?
The Florida nursery filed its case first in federal court in June 2019. But in November 2019, the federal judge threw out the suit, deciding that the company had a property interest in the pot license under state law, but not under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The lower court decided that if Congress has legislated that marijuana is against the law, then it can’t be property protected by the U.S. Constitution. As a result, this decision, the nursery quickly appealed the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit.
In the brief it filed in the Court of Appeals, the Florida DOH urged the Eleventh Circuit to uphold the district court’s decision. It argued that not only is the right to a medical pot license not protected by the 14th Amendment, but there’s no property right in the process of medical marijuana licensure, the DOH told the court.
Click here to read the Florida DOH’s brief in full.
What the case does not discuss is the fact the Florida Constitution contains a provision identical to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in its Article 1, Section 9, which states: “Due process.—No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. . . .” However, if the federal court’s decision stands, then this would be a matter solely based on Florida law and not one for the federal courts.
To learn more about their ongoing litigation in Florida involving medical marijuana issues, click here.
Click here to go to our Marijuana Law Blog page and read my prior blog on this subject to learn more.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical and Recreational Marijuana Concerns.
The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists, and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting, and/or licensing while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies, and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.
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Jones, Diana. “No Constitutional Right To Pot Licenses, Fla. Tells 11th Circ.” Law360. (August 27, 2020). Web.
Jones, Diana. “Nursery Tells 11th Circ. Pot License Constitutionally Protected.” Law360. (June 29, 2020). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
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