Florida finally legalized medical marijuana in November 2016. An incredible 71% of residents voted in favor of Amendment 2. It came two years after the same vote failed. The initiative initially legalized MMJ for patients with ALS, PTSD, AIDS, glaucoma, and a few other conditions.
After protests against the new legislation in certain quarters, Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law in June 2017. It took a considerable period for Florida to finally allow qualified patients to use MMJ. Indeed, up until March 2019, it was illegal to smoke cannabis in the state.
Today, the program is relatively well-established, and it costs $75 to apply for a card. You can only purchase cannabis products from a licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC). In this guide, we look at the different locations where MMJ is available. We also look at the top-performing brands.
At the time of writing, there are well over 550,000 MMJ patients in Florida in one of America’s fastest-growing medical marijuana programs. We hope this article proves useful to some of you!
Vertical Integration – Does It Hurt the Market?
At present, there are well over 300 licensed dispensaries in Florida. In 2020, the state ranked #3 for cannabis sales in the United States, behind Colorado and California. Bear in mind that both states allow recreational marijuana and have had MMJ programs since the previous century!
However, Florida’s vertical integration model has effectively created a monopoly. It requires cannabis companies to be responsible for every aspect of the business. This includes growing, cultivating, transporting, and selling. There is no allowance for cooperation or subcontracting, barring a handful of exceptional circumstances.
As a consequence, it is practically impossible for anyone outside a major brand to get involved due to the expense involved.
It seems as if the current ‘vertical integration’ system is creating a cartel of companies with deep pockets.
According to an MMJ company called Florigrown, the Florida legislature’s decision to pass SB8A, requiring vertical integration, violated Amendment 2. After all, Amendment 2 allowed companies to have different licenses for cultivating, processing, and selling.
However, the Florida Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings that SB8A was unconstitutional in May 2021. Therefore, vertical integration remains in Florida.
A Closed Shop
Thanks to this model, a handful of brands control the market. As a result, there are only 22 licensed operators. Six of them haven’t sold any MMJ products, and three others are Barely active. Most states with significantly smaller MMJ programs have far more businesses in operation. Furthermore, three brands control over two-thirds of the market, and the top six companies account for almost 90% of all sales.
In 2019, a firm called Blue Dream Industries listed two licenses to grow MMJ in Florida. One was ‘on sale’ for $40 million and permitted the owner to operate a maximum of 30 retail stores. The other license was available for $55 million and allowed the buyer to open 35 retail stores. License holders also receive a greenhouse for cultivation.
In Florida, some companies have purchased licenses for over $65 million! Small, independent organizations have no chance of getting involved in the industry.
The vertically integrated system means that, in theory, the cannabis you get in one dispensary should vary significantly from others. One would hope this would result in high-quality marijuana across the board. However, as the MMJ industry is such a closed shop, there is a danger of the standard falling.
What Can an MMJ Cardholder Buy in Florida?
At present, the law states that a physician can’t certify more than six 35-day supplies of smokable marijuana for a single patient. In rare cases, a patient can ask for an exception from the Florida Department of Health. Incidentally, a 35-day supply is capped at 2.5 ounces.
Also, MMTCs cannot sell more than a 70-day supply of marijuana in all forms at one time. Cardholders are allowed to possess a maximum of four ounces of smokable cannabis at one time. The MMJ law does not permit cannabis cultivation, so you have no option but to visit an MMTC.
Dispensaries in Florida are not the same as those in locations such as Colorado. You will not see the product in glass jars for inspection. Instead, the cannabis is packed tightly in containers, meaning you can’t see the standard of the product. Also, it is sold by strain and weight, so patients don’t have the option of browsing through jars to see the best-looking cannabis.
Dispensaries are dotted around the state, but you may still face a lengthy drive depending on where you live. The law also entitles MMJ patients to purchase ‘delivery devices’ for their smokable marijuana. This means you can buy bongs and pipes in MMTCs.
Aside from smokable flower, you can purchase extracts, oils, and tinctures. The state government eventually released guidelines regarding edibles in Florida. MMTCs can only sell edibles with a maximum of 10mg of THC per serving and 200mg in total. Patients under the age of 21 can’t purchase edibles with a THC of over 10%. Also, you can’t purchase edibles until your MMJ doctor specifically adds them to your recommendation.
Where Can I Purchase MMJ in Florida?
Here are the brands with licenses to actively grow, process, and sell cannabis in Florida. The number of dispensaries is approximate.
Number of Active Dispensaries
Liberty Health Sciences
As you might expect, Miami residents have access to a significant number of dispensaries. Nine of the brands mentioned above have at least one MMTC in Miami. Ten organizations have a presence in Tallahassee, while seven have MMTCs in Lakeland.
There are over a dozen dispensaries in the Miami area. You should find at least 14 in Jacksonville, while the Bonita Springs region has 10.
Who Leads the Florida MMJ Market?
The Florida MMJ market is worth around $1.3 billion. As you can see from the above chart, Trulieve dominates the market and currently has 51% of the market share in Florida. Initially, companies were only able to have 28 locations. However, the law changed, and Trulieve has pounced. It has surged ahead of Curaleaf and Surterra regarding dispensary numbers and is edging towards the 100 mark.
Top-ranked dispensaries in Florida, like Trulieve, are watching the dollars flow in what is becoming a booming market.
Trulieve has approximately one-quarter of the state’s active dispensaries but accounts for half the sales. It is also a clear market leader when it comes to THC concentrate sales. Trulieve’s dominance only became apparent in early 2020. It posted four of its strongest five weeks ever in Florida in February and March 2020 and has only grown since.
What Is the Best Dispensary in Florida?
Although Trulieve is the clear #1 in size, it doesn’t necessarily offer the best customer experience or best products. Indeed, the brand is generally classified as ‘mid-tier’ by most Floridian publications. The majority of lists featuring the top dispensaries in Florida seldom have more than three Trulieve dispensaries and perhaps one in the top five.
Generally speaking, detailed reviews of medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida focus on the following criteria:
- Product quality
In terms of brands, here is the top five in Florida:
- GrowHealthy: This brand is renowned for its outstanding service, great range of products, and low prices compared to other brands. The main downside is that everything sells out so quickly!
- MUV: Most reviewers agree that MUV shines in terms of its edibles, tinctures, and RSO selection. It is arguably the best brand for non-smokers.
- One Plant: Unlike many other MMJ companies, One Plant allows you to purchase just one gram of cannabis and NOT in a pre-roll. One issue is that its top-shelf strains are somewhat expensive.
- Trulieve: The biggest company isn’t necessarily the best. However, Trulieve does have a huge selection of products and many dispensaries throughout Florida. Problems with Trulieve dispensaries include delivery issues, long wait times in the lobby, and order cancellation.
- Harvest: This brand has a nice selection of strains. Rather than trying to be flashy, Harvest focuses on providing high-quality marijuana flower.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Florida: Which Store is #1?
This is subjective, of course, but according to numerous reviews, here are the top five dispensaries in Florida by brand and location:
- GrowHealthy – Orlando
- Surterra Wellness Center – Orange Park
- Liberty Health Sciences – Bonita Springs
- Surterra Wellness Center – Key West
- Trulieve – Kendall
Florida Dispensaries That Deliver
If you happen to live far away from a dispensary, you can avail of a Florida dispensary delivery service. Yes, you can order your cannabis, and someone will bring it to your home! During the height of the global pandemic, MMJ dispensaries were permitted to deliver cannabis to customers 24/7.
However, as ‘normality’ returns, delivery hours have been cut to more typical times. Virtually every brand has at least a few dispensaries that provide delivery services. Of course, they have different opening hours and rules.
For instance, Fluent delivers from 8 am to 7 pm EST on weekdays and 9 am to 5 pm EST on weekends. Delivery is free on all orders worth $200+, with 10% off along with free delivery if you spend $500 or more. If your order is less than $200, a $25 delivery charge applies. Here are a few other dispensary brands that deliver:
- RiSE: Free delivery on orders over $50; otherwise, a $20 charge applies. RiSE has a limited delivery area.
- MUV: Free delivery on orders over $150; otherwise, a $20 charge applies. However, delivery is only available within 20 miles of open stores.
- Liberty Health Services: Free delivery on orders over $150; otherwise, a $25 charge applies. Liberty does not deliver to Okaloosa, Santa Rose, or Escambia counties.
- One Plant: Free delivery on orders over $125; otherwise, a $25 charge applies.
- Trulieve: Free delivery on orders over $200; otherwise, a $15 charge applies. Over 65s also benefit from free delivery regardless of its value.
Final Thoughts on the Florida MMJ Market
Florida has finally allowed its medical marijuana market to grow. However, the existing vertical integration system is bad news for competition. It ensures that only huge corporations with seemingly limitless funds can even enter the market, let alone thrive. There is simply no way for a small entrepreneur to get involved with licenses alone, likely costing $30 million. Newcomers must also control growing, processing, testing, labeling, and selling.
If Florida were to legalize recreational cannabis, things might change, though full legalization seems unlikely in the short to medium term. At least, if you’re an MMJ patient in Florida, it is now easy to purchase what you need. If you can’t get to the dispensary, they might deliver to your door!
Don’t have an MMJ card yet? Find out how below.