Medical marijuana became legal in Florida in 2014 after lawmakers passed a billed authorizing its use. Now, nearly two years later, the state’s first cannabis dispensary is set to open early next week.
Trulieve, a marijuana grower in northern Florida, received approval from the Florida Department of Health to open a facility in Tallahassee. Through the weed dispensary, medical cannabis will be available to certain patients statewide starting Tuesday.
Florida’s 2014 marijuana law allows patients with cancer and severe epilepsy to use a strain of cannabis low in THC, the substance that produces the euphoric high. Up until now, many patients were unable to get access due to pending legal challenges to the law as well as delays in the state’s drafting of medical weed regulations.
To participate in Florida’s medical marijuana program, a patient must receive a doctor’s approval. After which, an order can be placed with any licensed dispensary in the state. While the law restricts smoking weed, the cannabis must be consumed through oils, pills, or some other form.
Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers modified the cannabis legislation to allow terminally ill patients to consume full-strength marijuana. With the express permission of two doctors, a patient who has less than a year to live can try a more potent form of the drug. Another amendment to the law allowing patients with a wider range of conditions to use full-strength medical marijuana is currently pending and must be approved by voters in November’s election.
According to company CEO Kim Rivers, Trulieve is planning to open more dispensaries outside Tallahassee. However, patients do not need to wait. Anyone in Florida with a valid doctor’s authorization can place an order and have it delivered within one week.
“We know that patients have been waiting for a long time,” Rivers said. “We thought that it was critical to open as soon as possible to get patients the medications they have been waiting for.”
The company expects to start selling the high-THC strain of medical marijuana for terminal patients next month. If the revised marijuana law is approved in November, Trulieve will be able to dispense full-strength medical cannabis to patients with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, and even glaucoma.
To receive the state’s approval, Trulieve had to complete a 2,000-page application and submit to multiple inspections by the Department of Health. Before any state dispensary can open, a grower’s production and distribution procedures must go through a rigorous series of regulatory examinations before approval.
“We are happy to announce that we have passed all inspections – from growing and processing to dispensing – and are the very first medical cannabis provider in the state to receive these formal authorizations,” read a company statement released Wednesday.
While the company makes it easy to get medical marijuana, a patient with an eligible condition must first register with Florida before placing an order. As of now, there are no names in the database, and only 15 doctors have authorization by the state to recommend the drug.
Medical marijuana legalization has been gaining momentum for the past several years, and it isn’t just Floridians who support it. A survey conducted by Harris last year found an overwhelming 81 percent of U.S. citizens like the idea of using cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some form. Several other states will be deciding on the issue in November.
In addition to Trulieve, Florida has authorized five other cannabis growers, and they are expected to open dispensaries later this year. With facilities in Tampa and Tallahassee, Surterra Therapeutics has plans to start selling medical marijuana by the end of summer.