While much of the marijuana news has focused on potential federal interference with legalized marijuana and California joining the ranks of legal recreational marijuana states, Florida has started what should become a mammoth medical marijuana business.
Projections vary on the size of the Florida market for medical marijuana but the consensus estimate is that it will exceed $1 billion by 2020.
Sales started this year and business has rapidly expanded across the state. A list kept by the state shows that more than 1,200 doctors have been authorized to prescribe medical marijuana. When voters approved legalized medical marijuana in November 2016, that number stood at fewer than 300. The state Office of Medical Marijuana is granting licenses to doctors at the rate of about 20 per day.
Sunshine State goldmine
It doesn’t take an MBA to understand the confluence of factors that make Florida a great spot for the medical marijuana industry.
The state is the third most populous in the country,with nearly 21 million people living there according to recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. And 19.1 percent of the population is 65 years old or older, according to the Pew Research Center.
The elder population is likely to grow as the nationwide population gets older over the next 20 years. Older patients are among the most likely to want medical marijuana for issues such as chronic pain management.
Explosion in popularity.
Much of the growth in the number of doctors prescribing marijuana is in South Florida, according to state numbers. The Miami-Dade County area alone has 208 authorized doctors. In the Tampa Bay area, another population center for the state, there are 196.
Dispensaries also are popping up all over the state. So are specialized clinics that help patients obtain a medical marijuana card, necessary to get medical cannabis prescriptions filled. The industry is growing so fast that Gov. Rick Scott decided in June to sign a law dispensing with the 90-day waiting period between a physician visit and obtaining a medical marijuana card.
However, there have been issues. The state has struggled to keep up with the demand. The Miami Herald detailed issues some have had in getting prescriptions filled, with some waiting months before getting their medical marijuana card.
Part of the problem is that the number of medical marijuana patients is expected to grow quickly from around 30,000 to about 500,000.
The state advises that now it will take about 30 days to get a card. A patient must first get a diagnosis of certain allowable conditions and then a prescription from a doctor. That information must be put into a registry with a state, which will then review the application and grant the card if all criteria are met.
In Florida, these are called Compassionate Use Registry Identification cards.
Residents of Florida are not allowed to grow their own medical marijuana. Also, only certain illnesses and conditions allow for the use of cannabis. They include cancer, ALS, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, chronic muscle spasm, seizures, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.