Florida’s medical cannabis industry is already growing at a brisk pace, and forthcoming changes to the state’s program could accelerate expansion even further.
As of June 29, the Sunshine State’s patient count stood at nearly 130,000, up 100% from the start of the year. That’s growth of approximately 2,580 patients per week, or nearly 370 patients per day.
For context, New York’s MMJ program took about 2½ years to reach 60,000 patients; Florida added more than 60,000 patients in less than six months.
Such a rapid patient gain is rare for a medical marijuana program that is – relatively speaking – quite restrictive.
Currently, the sale of smokable flower is prohibited and traditional marijuana edibles – like brownies or gummies – are not yet available for purchase.
Furthermore, fewer than 50 dispensaries are open in the state, and only 16% of Florida’s population lives in a town or city with an MMJ dispensary.
The market has developed quickly because of the state’s large population and a qualifying condition list that gives doctors a high degree of flexibility in determining patient qualification.
Impending changes to Florida’s program could open the floodgates for even more patients to enroll:
- In late May, a Florida judge lifted a stay on smokable forms of MMJ and ordered the state Department of Health (DOH) to write rules governing the cultivation, distribution and sale of marijuana flower. The state DOH and the governor have appealed the ruling, so smokable flower remains unavailable to MMJ patients – for now. If smokable flower is allowed, it could provide a massive boost to both patient counts and sales. A decision is expected by fall 2018.
- The state DOH is developing rules regarding the production of cannabis edibles. Edibles are one of the fastest-growing segments of the cannabis industry. No timeline has been provided for when the rules will be released.
- Florida’s medical marijuana patient count surpassed 100,000 in April, a milestone that triggers the addition of four more MMJ business licenses and allows existing licensees to open five more dispensary locations each. Currently, license holders can open 25 dispensaries apiece, though a pending lawsuit is challenging that cap.
Eli McVey can be reached at email@example.com