TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Less than two weeks after Florida’s new budget year started, the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use is asking lawmakers to set aside an additional $13.29 million to help pay for regulating the medical-marijuana industry and covering litigation costs.
The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate members, will take up the proposal during a meeting Thursday at the Capitol, according to documents posted online.
The office, which is part of the Florida Department of Health and has sometimes clashed with lawmakers, says it expects costs of more than $14.2 million during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which started July 1.
But the new budget included $935,400 for the operations, according to information submitted to the legislative budget commission.
The largest chunk of the expected costs, $7.34 million, stems from plans for the office to issue licenses to an additional four medical-marijuana firms.
The licenses are highly coveted, and the department estimates it will receive up to 400 applications for the additional licenses.
The information provided to the legislative budget commission says it will cost $18,354 to review each application.
Also, the office is requesting $3.4 million for a computer tracking system that “traces marijuana from seed-to-sale” and allows 24-hour access to data from medical marijuana treatment centers and laboratories, according to the information posted online.
Another $1.67 million would be used to contract with a vendor for expenses such as processing and issuing patient-identification cards, and $1.5 million would go to cover litigation costs.
If the office’s request is granted, about $5.6 million would be released immediately, while another $7.68 million would be placed in reserve.
The Department of Health would have to provide documentation to support the release of money from the reserve.
While the full House and Senate are required to pass the overall state budget, the legislative budget commission has authority to make changes during the year.