Supreme Court declines to hear appeal in Sarcoxie Nursery case
At the end of August, the Supreme Court of Missouri officially put to an end part of the longest-running legal battle regarding the Missouri medical marijuana program.
Sarcoxie Nursery’s founders became the first medical marijuana license applicants in the state to take action against the Department of Health and Senior Services when they filed suit against the Department of Health and Senior Services in December of 2019.
Sarcoxie’s case hinged on two points. Sarcoxie alleged that the license limits enforced by DHSS unreasonably restricted patient access, and imposed an undue burden on qualifying patients, in violation of Article XIV. Sarcoxie’s suit also alleged that the limitations on medical marijuana-related licenses conflicted with the Missouri Constitution and the “Right to Farm” amendment.
The original suit also challenged the scoring criteria used to evaluate license applications and the manner in which the Department reviewed applications and awarded licenses.
In its appeal, Sarcoxie argued that the circuit court’s determination that “the Department’s regulations fall squarely within its constitutional delegation of authority” was erroneous and that the court should have found that the Department’s license limits are unreasonably restrictive of patient access. Sarcoxie’s appeal also argued that the Department’s license limitations violate the right to engage in agricultural activities protected under the “Right to Farm.”
Both points were denied by the Court of Appeals in May, affirming the circuit court’s previous decision.
“The Department’s regulations setting limits on the number of licensed medical marijuana-related facilities are consistent with, and expressly authorized by, the plain language of Article XIV. Appellants have failed to demonstrate that those regulations are arbitrary or capricious, or that they lack a rational relationship to the important governmental interests of ensuring reasonable patient access to medical marijuana, preventing criminal trafficking in marijuana for nonmedical uses, and ensuring the health and safety of Missourians. The Right to Farm amendment found in Article I, § 35 of the Missouri Constitution does not invalidate the Department’s otherwise lawful rules. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed,” Judge Alok Ahuja wrote in the opinion.
Following the decision in May, Sarcoxie’s legal team filed a Motion for Rehearing of the case, that motion was overruled and denied.
In June, the legal team filed for a transfer to the Supreme Court.
On August 31, the Supreme Court of Missouri declined to hear the case.
Sarcoxie was the first group in Missouri to seek judgment outside of the Administrative Hearing Commission and the license appeals process.
The legal battle has spanned nearly three years.