Florida has a supply shortage of smokable medical cannabis

Governor Ron DeSantis said that horizontal integration should be introduced as a way of enabling smaller dispensaries to serve patients. 

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Florida has a supply shortage of smokable medical cannabis

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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Florida is dealing with a lack of smokable medical cannabis, according to recent reports from industry experts. It seems as though dispensaries might not have been ready for the swathes of patients entering their doors when plant became legal for medical purposes in its smokable form back in March. 

Following the recent vape-lung crisis that broke out in Florida back in August – leaving many dead and even more hospitalized – more patients turned to smokable medical cannabis in Florida. As a result of this, licensed dispensaries are stocking alternative products that consumers no longer seek. 

So far, 300,000 patients are qualified to receive medical cannabis in Florida, but the number of dispensaries currently in operation is insufficient to meet demand. Based on the current Florida law, medical cannabis treatment centers are being forced to vertically integrate their business from seed-to-sale in order to obtain a license; leaving patients with limited choice as to where they can buy smokable medical cannabis.

Laws for medical cannabis in Florida were expanded in 2016

The State of Florida broadly expanded its medical cannabis laws on November 8th, 2016, when Amendment 2 was passed. This meant the patients were granted much better access to the plant in its medicinal form for the treatment of widespread chronic medical conditions. Recreational use is not permitted as per the terms of Amendment 2; only low-THC products are permitted.

Florida’s medical cannabis law features a broad list of qualifying conditions, including AIDS/HIV, epilepsy, ALS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease. In order to obtain medicine – whether it is in the form of topical, oral or inhalable solutions – the patient must first be registered. Only certified doctors can recommend medical cannabis to patients.

An overview of Florida’s smokable medical cannabis rules 

Individuals who are enrolled in Florida’s medical cannabis program may be certified by a licensed physician to receive six 35-day supply limits of the plant in its smokable form. Previously, registered patients could obtain three 70-day supply limits for various forms of cannabis as a medicine. 

According to the most recent version of Florida’s smokable medical cannabis rules, no more than 2.5 ounces can be prescribed to patients every 35 days. Exceptions might be made if an individual’s case is reviewed and approved by the Florida Department of Health (“FDOH”). Patients are also restricted to possessing no more than four ounces at one time. Once again, the FDOH must approve an individual’s case if the patient requires more smokable flower.

It is forbidden for patients to consume smokable medical cannabis in Florida if they are in an enclosed, indoor working environment. Additionally, smokable medical cannabis cannot be consumed in a public setting if it contains traces of the psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol); e.g. a high-CBD, low-THC strain.

Horizontal integration could salvage Florida’s supply of smokable medical cannabis

Governor Ron DeSantis has a good idea for mending the supply shortage of local medical cannabis in Florida. In a recent public announcement, DeSantis said that horizontal integration should be introduced as a way of enabling smaller dispensaries to serve patients. Although DeSantis is pushing for horizontal integration in Florida, the law still remains the same. 

Currently, only state-licensed dispensaries – of which there are not enough – can provide smokable cannabis flowers to patients. If Florida pushes forward with recreational cannabis legalization, consumer demand will soar and there will be a lack of product to go around. With this in mind, horizontal integration could make a big difference to Florida’s budding cannabis industry.