Florida’s pool of medical marijuana patients has grown significantly over the past month and a half.
More than 10,000 people have registered for medical marijuana in Florida since early June. According to data provided by Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, the number of registered patients jumped 60 percent, from 16,760 on June 7 to 26,968 on July 27.
It was on June 7 that the Florida Legislature convened a special session and approved SB 8A, a bill that implemented the voter-approved medical marijuana amendment and expanded the state’s previously restrictive medical cannabis program. Gov. Rick Scott signed that legislation into law shortly thereafter.
The state has also seen a spike in the number of doctors authorized to recommend cannabis. During the same seven-week period, more than 130 new doctors signed up to be able to recommend marijuana to patients. There are now about 950 doctors throughout Florida who are registered with the program.
Florida’s registry numbers directly influence its licensing centers. So far, Florida has licensed nine medical marijuana treatment centers to grow, process and distribute cannabis, and intends to license additional vertically integrated medical marijuana businesses in the coming months. By October 3, the state should have 17 operational medical marijuana dispensaries. Once its medical marijuana registry reaches 100,000 patients, the state will license up to 4 additional medical marijuana treatment centers.
Florida’s medical marijuana amendment, approved by 71 percent of voters in last year’s election, took effect January 3, but health officials were given until July to craft the program’s rules. Prior to its new medical cannabis policy, Florida had implemented a restrictive cannabidiol (CBD)-specific law.
The new law allows access to marijuana for patients diagnosed with epilepsy, chronic muscle spasms, cancer, HIV and AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and terminal conditions.
Patients with a recommendation of a licensed physician can purchase three 70-day supplies of non-smokable cannabis products, such as oils, tinctures, capsules, edibles, and vape pens. Personal cultivation of cannabis is not permitted.
The amendment approved by voters originally allowed for smokable forms of cannabis, but state lawmakers eliminated that permission in SB 8A. Orlando attorney John Morgan, who helped fund the campaign for the ballot measure, sued the state in July over the smoking ban, arguing that it can be the most effective consumption method for patients with some conditions.
Florida is one of 29 U.S. states that have legalized medical marijuana. Once operational, Florida’s medical marijuana market is expected to rival Colorado’s and grow at a compound annual growth rate of 140 percent to $1.6 billion by 2020.
Despite recent attempts by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute states that have implemented their own medicinal cannabis policies, support for legalization is at an all-time high and federal lawmakers appear steadfast in ensuring states remain protected from federal interference. Experts believe cannabis could be legalized nationally in the coming years.