While many business sectors have sharply contracted over the past six months due to COVID-19, Florida’s medical marijuana industry, by several measures, appears to be thriving. Growth in the number of patients, doctors, dispensaries and in product sales have all increased – with dispensation of consumable products doubling in multiple categories since the start of 2020.
In January, Florida had had more than 2,600 qualified prescribing physicians who had certified 299,044 patients. As of October, the number of patients has grown to 424,224 with a valid medical marijuana ID card. That’s an increase of 41 percent over just nine months.
The state’s most recent report, published October 2nd, showed those patients visited 278 dispensing locations, and took home almost 146 million milligrams of medical marijuana in various forms, over 3.6 million milligrams of low-THC cannabis, and 1.37 tons of smokable medical marijuana.
And that’s just in a single week.
So far in 2020, Florida patients have purchased more than 1.3 million ounces of smokable medical marijuana. That’s 84,719 pounds, or 42.3 tons. Sales of “marijuana in a form for smoking,” as the state calls it, have averaged a little over one ton per week since the start of the year. But that number has risen steadily since January, punching past the 1-ton mark twice during the first weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, and never looking back:
More than 22 percent of smokable marijuana prescriptions were for PTSD, while about 33 percent of all prescriptions cited “chronic pain,” and another 29 percent were issued for non-specific reasons “comparable to” either PTSD or other more serious diseases. Just 14.6 percent of all prescriptions on the last annual report specifically cited a potentially terminal illness like cancer.
The industry growth comes amid rampant speculation about the fate of a 2017 law and subsequent licensing requirements that restricted access to the industry to all but a handful of qualified industry players. Those qualifications initially required licensees to be able to manage all aspects of the medical marijuana supply chain, including seeding, cultivation, harvesting, storage, transport, processing and dispensing products.
Florigrown, LLC, cried foul, arguing that the law was unconstitutional, and filed suit to challenge the restrictions. A second round of oral arguments were heard today by the Florida Supreme Court. A number of prominent industry players weighed in on the case.
“We are not allowed to use the statutes to hand out special favors to private corporations, which is exactly what has happened in the medical marijuana arena,” said former Lt. Governor Jeff Kottcamp, an attorney representing Triangle Capital, which holds medical marijuana licenses in two other states. “Ultimately, our goal is to provide affordable, safe medical marijuana to patients. If we allow the free market to handle this, we will achieve that goal.”
The tightly regulated access to such a potentially lucrative industry has created another market all on its own: medical marijuana retail licenses themselves:
Licenses in Florida have been flipped for as much as $67 million, making it attractive for those looking to invest.
Once acquired, the licenses are lucrative. The Florida medical marijuana industry is projected to generate more than $1.1 billion in annual revenue by 2022, according to Arcview Market Research, a subsidiary of an investment group for the cannabis industry. (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Last year, an Atlanta broker put up two Florida dispensary licenses up for sale, listing one that would allow the buyer to operate up to 30 retail stores for $40 million and the other, a license to operate up to 35 retail stores, for $55 million.