Cannabis Laws in Florida: Everything Investors Need to Know

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is cannabis legal in Florida

Medical cannabis has been legal on a state level in Florida since 2016. However, recreational cannabis is still illegal in the state.

Curious about how cannabis legalization works in Florida? We round up everything you need to know about both medical marijuana and the recreational sector.

What you should know about medical marijuana in Florida

Medical cannabis laws in Florida are pretty straightforward. Since legalization, patients and their doctors have full access to determine which type of medical cannabis is best for their situation. In Florida, as of March 20, 2019, medical cannabis patient rules are as follows:

  • Patients should be Florida residents with a valid Florida I.D. as proof of residency.
  • All patients must register with the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The state offers a guide with more details.
  • Patients are allowed 2.5 ounces of whole-flower cannabis every 35 days, as recommended by their doctor.
  • For patients under the age of 18, only individuals with a terminal condition can receive the above allowance. The law asks for a second opinion from a pediatrician before allowing these patients to smoke medical cannabis.

How can you qualify for Florida’s Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers?

Patients can access medical marijuana from registered cannabis dispensaries. These dispensaries are called Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (or MMTCs). To obtain an MMTC license, applicants should follow the following steps:

  • Access the application from the Office of Compassionate Use website.
  • Submit financial statements and pass a background check. Check out Florida’s medical marijuana license regulations here.

What medical conditions qualify for medical cannabis use in Florida?

If a patient suffers from the following medical conditions and has a diagnosis from their doctor, they can register as a medical marijuana patient in Florida:

  • cancer
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis (or MS)
  • medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those above
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD)
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS)
  • a terminal condition confirmed by a second physician besides the one issuing the certification (a second opinion)
  • chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition
  • chronic pain that persists beyond the usual course of the qualifying medical condition

Recreational marijuana in Florida: Joining the movement

Recreational cannabis is still illegal in Florida. But in 2019, voters launched some initiatives in the state to get recreational cannabis legalized. Campaigns like “Regulate Florida” and “Make It Legal Florida” are working to collect enough signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. Make It Legal Florida has launched an official website where users can sign a petition to put the initiative on the ballot.

Restrictions on marijuana in Florida

Recreational possession of even small amounts of cannabis is still illegal in Florida. It’s worth noting that possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana as an individual qualifies as a misdemeanor in the state. The penalty is a maximum sentence of one-year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. And the penalty for possession of 20 grams or more in Florida is a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, along with a maximum fine of $5,000.

The sale or delivery of cannabis within 1,000 feet of a school, college, park, or other specified area is also punishable. Penalties include a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment, along with a maximum fine of $10,000. To learn more about Florida’s recreational cannabis laws and penalties, check out this overview from NORML.

Other legal hurdles investors should consider

Currently, Florida also doesn’t allow marijuana cultivation. The penalty is a third-degree felony. Conviction results in imprisonment for up to five years, a fine up to $5,000, or both.

Florida doesn’t allow out-of-state cannabis patients to access cannabis in the state. But Florida lawmakers are working on reforms to welcome medical marijuana patients from out of state.

It’s also important to note that Florida doesn’t currently qualify medical marijuana use as a covered disability. Curious about employments rules for disability support in Florida? NORML breaks these policies down.

Interestingly, Florida has an appointed “cannabis czar” to assist in building up a regulated medical marijuana market. Plus, the court no longer limits the number of dispensaries in the state.

The medical cannabis industry spells big opportunity for Florida

Investors should note that despite the hefty legal hurdles, Florida’s medical cannabis industry could see huge opportunity if it attracts attention from the big players. Like fellow states that have legalized medical cannabis, Florida is benefitting from tax revenue as well as job growth in the sector. The big-name cannabis players are also cashing in from their medical cannabis businesses in the state. Let’s take a look at their big operations elsewhere to get a sense of the potential for the medical cannabis industry.

IIPR’s movements in the sector

Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR) is a specialized REIT that provides real estate solutions to medical cannabis players. The company commented on its second-quarter earnings conference call that it’s made several acquisitions to drive growth. While it has yet to undertake major developments in Florida, IIPR is on the map in other states with legal medical cannabis.

  • The company owns three properties in Michigan.
  • It has an industrial property in Pennsylvania for medical-use cannabis cultivation and processing.
  • IIPR also acquired another industrial property in Ohio for medical-use cannabis processing.

Aphria’s international potential

Aphria (APHA) is another major cannabis player, and it’s also a new entrant to the industry. The company focuses on developing its medical and adult-use cannabis brands to drive growth. Aphria has staked its territory in Germany as the only licensed producer of medical cannabis. The company is allowed to grow all three strains of medical marijuana approved by the German authority. Aphria plans to sell these products through its subsidiary, CC Pharma.

Canopy Growth making waves to the north

Elsewhere, Recently, Canopy Growth (CGC)(WEED) launched a medical marijuana training program in Montreal. So far, the company has also generated considerable revenue from its Canadian and international medical channel.

What to expect from Florida’s cannabis industry

We may not be seeing the big moves from the likes of IIPR, Aphria, and Canopy Growth within the state itself. But the medical cannabis industry is in a good position in Florida. Floridians are now gearing up to get recreational cannabis legalized by 2020. And a Quinnipiac University poll in June showed that around 65% of voters are okay with the idea of possessing small amounts of recreational marijuana.

In July, Floridians took the first step toward legalization with the “Regulate Florida” campaign. The campaign needs to have 1 million signed petitions to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. Regulate Florida also offers a website where users can sign a petition and make donations to support legalization efforts.

And MedMen started its campaign, “Make it Legal, Florida,” which we looked at above. It also has an official website that allows users to sign a petition to put the initiative on the ballot. MedMen and Surterra each have contributed $545,000 to the campaign.

The major players in Florida’s cannabis market

Currently, Florida is among the fastest-growing medical cannabis markets in the US. The state has licensed 22 vertically integrated operators. Moreover, estimates from Marijuana Business Factbook 2019 suggest that Florida’s medical cannabis sales will hit $425 million to $525 million this year.

Trulieve is the dominant player in Florida with close to 50% of total sales in the state. As of September 6, Trulieve operates 31 dispensaries in the nstate and has the highest sales-per-store average. The other top operators are Surterra, Curaleaf (CURLF), Liberty Health, Fluent, GrowHealthy, and AltMed Florida. Surterra also has 31 dispensaries while Curaleaf has 26 dispensaries in the state.

Trulieve’s okstrong marketing strategies, customer loyalty, efficient supply chain, and variety of products have helped the company gain dominance. Additionally, MedMen (MMEN)(MMNFF) announced in June a planned expansion into Florida. The company aims to open 12 retail locations in the state. It paid $53 million in 2018 to acquire Treadwell Simpson Partnership, one of Florida’s 14 medical marijuana licensees.

More resources for savvy cannabis investors

To gain more insights into the cannabis industry overall, see Investing in the Cannabis Industry. Looking to learn more about how Florida is approaching recreational cannabis legalization? See Marijuana Legalization: ‘Make It Legal Florida!’ And finally, for overviews of cannabis regulation in other states as well as updates in Florida, stay tuned to 420 Investor Daily.