Home Cannabis Caught in one among Florida’s medical marijuana deserts? Assist could also be...

Caught in one among Florida’s medical marijuana deserts? Assist could also be on the way in which | Leafly

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Let’s begin with some math. As of this week there are 293 dispensaries open in Florida, patronized by the 441,000 Floridians who at present possess a medical marijuana card.

Meaning there’s roughly one dispensary for each 1,500 sufferers within the state.

Which will look like a stable ratio. New Jersey has solely 12 dispensaries serving 81,000 sufferers—that’s one dispensary for each 6,750 sufferers.

However not like New Jersey, Florida is an enormous state when it comes to its space. A fast look at Florida’s dispensary locations exhibits tight clusters in city areas and alongside the coastlines. Should you don’t reside in these areas, you’re out of luck. There are a number of sprawling areas with no dispensary for greater than 100 miles.

These hashish deserts current a irritating problem for sufferers, who discover themselves having to drive a number of hours to succeed in the closest dispensary at the very least as soon as a month. Florida has strict buy limits, so it’s not potential to top off prefer it’s a visit to Costco.

A 3-hour spherical journey for meds

The state’s greatest medical marijuana desert is in north-central area of the state, centered round rural Suwannee County.

Positioned midway between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Suwannee County has a inhabitants of slightly below 50,000 folks. The county seat of Dwell Oak has the densest inhabitants within the area, however the closest dispensaries are situated 70 miles away in Tallahassee. That’s a 90-minute drive every approach.

Dwell Oak residents who deal with their persistent ache with opioid prescriptions can fill them on the native CVS, Walgreens, or Winn-Dixie—Dwell Oak has all of them. However sufferers who flush their drugs in favor of hashish must take almost a full day to drive to and from the dispensary. That’s one thing many individuals with common work schedules, younger kids, or disabilities merely can’t do. 

florida-cannabis-desert
Loads of dispensaries in Gainesville—however none within the surrounding area. (Dispensary map out there on Leafly app.)

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Why aren’t there any dispensaries right here?

Blame the state, blame native municipalities, and blame the dispensary corporations themselves. All three have created this case.

There are solely 22 corporations with medical marijuana licenses in a state with greater than 20 million folks.

Cities and municipalities in Florida might be stingy with what number of dispensary licenses are granted of their respective jurisdictions and to whom these licenses go. Native startup corporations are sometimes handed over in favor of larger, established corporations with deep pockets. A lot of these larger corporations aren’t all in favour of serving small communities. It doesn’t make financial sense. In order that they cluster in probably the most population-rich areas.

That wouldn’t be an issue in a wide-open trade. If a city or county is underserved, often an area entrepreneur will begin a small boutique and fill the area of interest.

However Florida’s medical marijuana trade isn’t huge open. It’s tightly regulated and vertically built-in. Meaning there are solely 22 corporations with medical marijuana licenses in a state with greater than 20 million folks. Of these 22 corporations, solely 14 have really opened dispensaries.

And people 22 corporations are required by legislation to be totally built-in, which implies they must develop the vegetation, manufacture the merchandise, and promote them in retail dispensaries. There’s no specialization—and which means it prices a lot of cash to even get into the enterprise.

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A top-heavy trade in Florida

In Florida, a small handful of corporations personal licenses that permit them to confide in 30 or extra dispensaries. These corporations might not open all 30 shops, although, and so they don’t unfold them evenly across the state. That wouldn’t make financial sense for them. They open dispensaries the place the encompassing inhabitants is dense, and affected person foot visitors is powerful and regular.

A neighborhood entrepreneur has no shot at opening a distinct segment dispensary to serve a small city.

That’s made for a top-heavy market. There are 22 licensees, however the prime 5 corporations function two-thirds of all dispensaries.

Why don’t native entrepreneurs simply apply for a license? They’ll’t. The state isn’t issuing any new ones. Current licenses price tens of millions of {dollars}, in the event that they’re out there. Final yr the proprietor of two separate Florida medical hashish licenses put one on the market for $40 million (with an choice to confide in 30 dispensaries) and the opposite for $55 million (with an choice to confide in 35 dispensaries).  

Highlands County: Lastly, a dispensary

Ben Pollara, chief of Florida for Care and one of many state’s longtime advocates for sufferers, entry, and legalization, acknowledges the issue. However he’s optimistic that issues are slowly getting higher.

“Entry is getting higher, even when it’s nonetheless not nice,” Pollara instructed Leafly. “A yr in the past folks needed to drive two, three counties away. The entry wasn’t there then, nevertheless it’s a lot better now than it was even then and ought to be enhancing extra sooner or later.”

That’s precisely the scenario in South Florida’s Highlands County. With greater than 100,000 residents, this isn’t a podunk county. However till not too long ago, medical marijuana sufferers who reside within the county seat, Sebring, needed to drive greater than 90 minutes to the closest dispensary, in Sarasota.

Lastly, in October, a single dispensary opened within the city of Avon Park. The One Plant retailer there may be operated by Bluma Wellness, which has 5 different One Plant dispensaries open in Florida. These different outlets are in population-rich areas like Jacksonville and St. Petersburg, which suggests the corporate needed to get established in high-traffic areas earlier than branching out into smaller markets. (Bluma Wellness officers declined to answer Leafly’s request for remark from the corporate.)

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Supply providers provide some entry

For a lot of sufferers trapped in these deserts, supply providers have crammed the hole.

“For all of the methods [the state of Florida has] screwed up,” Pollara mentioned, “one factor they did proper was create a mandate for supply entry.”

Florida law particularly protects house supply of medical marijuana, so long as drivers and autos meet sure safety laws. And although there are some restrictions on timing of deliveries, there aren’t any limits in relation to how far a supplier is legally allowed to move medical marijuana.

In fact it might be impractical for particular person dispensary supply drivers to journey hours to distant pot deserts, however the firm OnePlant has created an answer: a medical marijuana supply hub system that serves completely different components of the state on completely different days, streamlining deliveries and enormously increasing entry in distant areas.

As of Nov. 2020, OnePlant’s community fully covers all rural areas in each Central and South Florida, and plans are at present underway to develop in North Florida counties, notably within the Panhandle area, which continues to be probably the most underserved space of the state in relation to dispensaries and entry.

Change could possibly be coming

On the state stage, the Florida Supreme Courtroom goes to be arguments within the close to future to pave the way in which for non-vertically granted licenses for dispensaries within the state.

Ending Florida’s vertical-integration rule may open a door for smaller corporations to enter.

That would enormously develop alternatives for small and native companies to open places in these underserved communities. You’ll be able to learn extra in regards to the legalities involving this case at South Florida Hospital News.

Medical marijuana has been authorized in Florida since 2016, and efforts for full marijuana legalization are transferring full steam forward for a possible vote in 2022. Whereas a variety of progress has been made so far, the necessity for advocacy by no means ends, particularly as accessibility of secure and authorized medical marijuana merchandise stays a problem in a number of giant parts of Florida.

Floridians in search of sources and methods to assist can take a look at each Florida for Care and Make it Legal Florida for extra on this challenge.

Amanda Kondolojy's Bio Image

Amanda Kondolojy

Amanda Kondolojy is a contract author with a ardour for espresso, journey, and her three cats. She’s primarily based in Central Florida.

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