Marijuana treatment centers have 60 days to comply with emergency rule on website purchasing

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Leafly.com and I Heart Jane run websites that allow customers to shop for medical marijuana and place orders online.

Medical marijuana treatment centers have 60 days to ensure their website and website purchasing services are in compliance with a new emergency rule issued by the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment on the emergency rule that was published Thursday. But it comes after the state lost a legal battle last year to ban licensed dispensaries from contracting with third-party websites that offer “website purchasing” services to 740,213 qualified patients and their caregivers.  

The emergency rule says medical marijuana treatment centers can only maintain one department-approved website and it makes clear that centers cannot offer website purchasing services without first obtaining approval from the state.

The emergency rule defines website purchasing as the “purchasing of or making reservations or pre-reservations for the purchasing of usable product or marijuana delivery devices” through a medical marijuana treatment center. 

All medical marijuana treatment center websites must also have the capability to verify customers are at least 18 years of age under the emergency regulation.

Additionally, the emergency rule requires the medical marijuana treatment centers, prior to collecting personal information for purposes of website purchasing, to obtain consent from the patient. The emergency rule precludes treatment centers from using the personal information for anything other than purchasing their products. 

The emergency rule also mandates that medical marijuana treatment centers have their servers in secure locations that meet national industry standards. The treatment centers must maintain records of who is accessing the information on the servers and provide them to the state within 48 hours of being asked.

E-commerce companies such as Leafly.com and I Heart Jane have websites that allow customers to shop for medical marijuana and to place orders online.

The companies forward the orders to licensed medical marijuana treatment centers to fill the orders. Once filled, treatment centers notify the e-commerce providers that the orders are ready for pickup. The third-party e-commerce providers then notify the qualified patients who pick up and pay for the orders at the medical marijuana treatment centers’ storefronts.

Former Department of Health Chief of Staff Courtney Coppola sent a memo in February 2021 telling licensed dispensaries that using third-party e-commerce vendors runs afoul of Florida law and threatened $5,000 fines against companies that used the e-commerce services.

Seattle-based Leafly Holdings, which was established in 2010 and specifically named in the Coppola memo, challenged the policy in state administrative court. It argued the ban on third parties was an unpromulgated rule and Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk agreed.

The state filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.

Attempts to contact Leafly holdings Thursday were not immediately successful.

All medical marijuana treatment centers have 60 days to comply with the emergency rule or submit paperwork with the state stating they are in compliance with the emergency rule.

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