The Florida Department of Health has put the finishing touches on a medical cannabis license application that has been languishing for months.
But the process has been plagued by delays and a backlog of applications.
On Wednesday, the department said it had reached an agreement with a nonprofit group that has fought for years for a license for medical marijuana dispensaries in the Sunshine State.
“We have finalized the application for a dispensary in Florida,” said DPH Director John R. Allen.
“This will allow patients in Florida to purchase and access the medical marijuana products they need.”
The state will also give a $10,000 grant to a nonprofit that will help pay for the application, said Allen.
In return, the nonprofit group will not have to provide documents that state officials deem too sensitive.
It’s unclear how much the nonprofit will get for the permit, which is expected to be approved within two weeks.
The agreement was reached between the nonprofit and the DPH, said Dina Ruderman, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Authority, which administers the state’s medical marijuana program.
The nonprofit, called Medical Cannabis for Florida, filed its application last summer, and it took longer than anticipated to get approved, Allen said.
The state’s Health Department has been struggling to approve dispensaries that have applied for a medical license.
Medical marijuana is legal in Florida, but it remains illegal at the federal level.
Under federal law, it is still considered a Schedule I drug, the lowest of the most dangerous substances, and illegal at all but the most controlled facilities.
State lawmakers passed a medical dispensary law in 2012.
The law made it easier for people with severe or chronic medical conditions to access marijuana.
But medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law and states that have tried to pass laws to legalize the drug have had to fight back.
In June, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a medical pot bill that would have allowed patients with serious illnesses to legally possess and use the drug.
The DEA’s action sparked an outcry among medical marijuana advocates and medical marijuana advocacy groups, who said it could put an end to the state legalizing the drug and put the U.S. on the path to becoming a cannabis-free nation.
A similar bill that passed the Florida Senate in 2012 failed to clear a state House committee.
State Sen. Joe Negron, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said he was disappointed the DEA had sided with the pharmaceutical industry.
The bill would have made it legal for patients with severe and chronic illnesses to buy and use medical marijuana and had also permitted caregivers to do so.
“I’m very disappointed with the DEA,” Negron said Wednesday.
“It’s unfortunate that they chose to side with the industry.”
Negron added that the DEA has made a habit of rejecting bills to legalize medical marijuana.
“They’ve done this before,” he said.
“The drug is here, and they’re here to protect the industry.
This is a very big deal for Florida.”
He added that he believes that the state would be in better shape if lawmakers were more willing to take a stand against the DEA’s stance.
“In my opinion, if the DEA was willing to stand up and fight for our medical marijuana, we would be doing so,” Negrons statement said.
Allen, the Dph director, said that state legislators are reviewing the proposal, and the agency hopes to get a final product ready for the next licensing session.
The DPH said it is committed to making medical marijuana available to patients in the state who have serious illnesses and those with chronic conditions.
But he said the organization will not be providing patients with documents or other forms of identification that would identify them as having a serious condition.