But He Also Advised Health Officials To Consider Whether Their “newly Acquired Constitutional Authority,” Resulting From The Ballot Measure Overwhelmingly Approved By Voters In November, Gives The Agency The Ability To Grant Licenses To 3 Boys And Plants Of Ruskin.

PHOTO BY 7RAYSMARKETING VIA PIXABAY Lawmakers failed to approve legislation to carry out the constitutional amendment during the session that ended earlier this month, possibly bolstering Van Laningham’s recommended order, which under administrative law will have to go back to the department for final action. In his 108-page recommended order, the administrative law judge failed to address the fact that he had earlier decided that Surterra, one of five applicants originally granted a medical marijuana license by health officials in November 2015, should not have been eligible to apply. Surterra has continued to operate and won’t be affected by Tuesday’s ruling. Van Laningham reiterated his critique of the health department’s methodology to cull the applications, writing that the officials “did not score them,” as required by the agency’s own rule, but instead “merely ranked them,” which he said led to a faulty outcome. Based on his own analysis, Van Laningham concluded that 3 Boys scored marginally higher than Plants of Ruskin. But he also advised health officials to consider whether their “newly acquired constitutional authority,” resulting from the ballot measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in November, gives the agency the ability to grant licenses to 3 Boys and Plants of Ruskin. And, he wrote, the health agency should issue the two new licenses “because there is no meaningful qualitative difference between these applicants, as a matter of ultimate fact.” If the agency decides not to authorize two licenses, then 3 Boys should win because it received the highest score, “if only by a mathematically insignificant margin,” Van Laningham wrote. Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton said in an email the agency is reviewing Van Laningham’s order and is “in the process of determining our next steps.” Whether the agency will issue two new licenses is questionable; state officials have maintained in the past that current state law restricts the Department of Health to granting only one new license in each of the state’s five regions, based on administrative or court rulings. Even so, both challengers hailed Tuesday’s ruling. “We have always believed 3 Boys Farm would prevail, and we are so proud of the incredible people who’ve stood alongside us all these months, never giving in. But we’re pleased that the judge recognized that both 3 Boys and Plants of Ruskin were qualified to grow medical cannabis in Florida,” 3 Boys President Robert Tornello said in a statement.

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