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Florida medical marijuana providers set to nearly double

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After the Florida Supreme Court upheld the state’s seed-to-sale medical marijuana model, the Department of Health is preparing to issue 15 new treatment center licenses. 

Those involved in the industry believe the expansion will increase competition and benefit patients, but some lawmakers doubt whether the new players will actually make a dent in either cost or availability.

There are more than 575,000 medical marijuana patients in Florida and the ever-growing number has opened the door for 15 new MMTC licenses. 

Once the patient count hits 600,000, a total of 19 licenses will be available.

”This frankly doubles the size of the industry,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.

Sharkey expects those licenses will be granted within 18 months.

”I think it’s going to have a big impact. I mean you’ll see people really becoming competitive in this space,” Sharkey said.

But of the 22 current license holders, nine have produced zero (or virtually zero) product.

That’s one of the reasons State Sen. Jeff Brandes is skeptical more license holders will make a noticeable impact on patients.

”Florida is going to be awash in medical marijuana licenses,” Brandes said. “The problem is, nobody wants to put the capital in to build the facilities and then site the retail facilities and build the processing plants necessary to make this work.”

With the Supreme Court upholding the state’s medical marijuana law, it would take legislative action to undo the expensive but lucrative requirement for MMTCs to control every part of the process from seed-to-sale.

Soon after taking office in 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed disdain for the vertically integrated medical marijuana system put in place by lawmakers, saying they “essentially created a cartel.”

But legislative efforts to abolish the seed-to-sale model in recent years have failed to gain traction. 

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith hopes its an issue the Legislature will move to address next year.

”We need more competition because that will drive down the cost of the product for patients,” Smith said.

The Department of Health said it’s establishing an application process for the 15 licenses currently available, but it has not yet begun accepting applications.