In the first six months after Florida legalized the use of smokable medical marijuana, state dispensaries ordered 57 tons of flower for their customers, according to a new report by state health officials.
This new report, compiled for the state Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine, tracked data on the state's medical cannabis program between Oct. 1st, 2018, and Sept. 30th, 2019. For the first six months of this period, smokable medical marijuana was banned by the state. But in March, a circuit court judge reversed the ban, ruling that it violated the original intent of the voter-approved ballot measure that legalized medical marijuana in the first place.
As soon as the ban was lifted, state dispensaries began ordering flower from licensed cultivators in anticipation of a massive rush of demand. By the end of September, dispensaries had stocked their shelves with over 1.82 million ounces of bud, about 57 tons in total. Demand has not been as strong as projected, though. The report notes that only 44 percent (128,040) of the state's 291,865 registered patients have been buying smokable flower.
“I thought it would be more,” said medical cannabis lobbyist Ron Watson to WUSF News. Other advocates believed the demand was consistent with their expectations. “Folks, certainly [baby] boomers and in their middle age, familiar with joints probably find that a useful method of application,” said Jeff Sharkey of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, to News4JAX.
Not all of the patients purchasing this raw flower may be smoking it, however. Josephine Cannella-Krehl, founder of MMJ Knowledge, told News4JAX that some patients are buying flower in order to make their own edibles, which are currently still banned in Florida.
“You know that's a big ethical dilemma that we've set up a program where in order to access the whole plant a person may have to go in and lie to their doctor,” Cannella-Krehl said.
The state is currently drawing up rules covering medical marijuana edibles, but judging by the draft rules, Florida may have the strictest edibles regulations in the country. Regulators are working to ensure that weed edibles will be “tasteless, colorless, odorless,” and free from all additives, according to Nick Hansen of MedMen. In contrast, “if you look at other markets that have used edibles like California or Nevada it sort of runs the gamut. Everything from gummies to chocolates to lozenges and between.”
The availability of edibles and smokable flower may be set to expand in the very near future. Two different advocacy groups are currently working to put constitutional amendments on next year's general election ballot, allowing Florida voters to decide whether to bring legal adult-use cannabis sales to the Sunshine State.