Light ‘Em Up, Smoke ‘Em Up, Inhale … Exhale

Medical marijuana generated some $17 million in sales last year alone, but that seemingly Daddy Weedbucks amount is merely a drop in the proverbial bucket, compared to what riches apparently lie ahead. The Miami Herald writer Glenn Garvin laid it out country simple in a Monday, June 4 article. “Call it the New Marijuana Math: 91,000 Floridians are buying 56 pounds of pot a week under the order of 1,400 doctors,” he writes, noting that the current number of customers is little more than just a fraction of the half-million souls or so the state of Florida was expecting to have on the record at this point in its fledgling attempt at this new industry.

This unexpectedly sluggish rise is attributed to those state bureaucrats who, for most of last year, were processing applications as if they themselves were stoners, lingering over minutiae on each page. Garvin’s column continues, noting that only the frequent prodding of the listless state employees from citizens and legislators alike has spurred these public servants to expedite the process; it’s now dwindled down to take about two weeks, as opposed to the two or three months that it usually took in 2017. The resultant efficiency has cleared the way for some 5,400 new patients to be certified every week, as of the last count in May. There are still any number of hoops, big and small, held high and low, through which would-be customers and the businesses that strive to serve them need to jump.

Garvin’s article also cites a non-refundable $60,000 application fee from dispensaries, an amount so high, it prices out most independent vendors, leaving only five corporations certified to distribute product around the state through a network of a mere 37 storefronts. Customers are prohibited from growing their own stash, but that restriction could change after recent court action, though only certain strains are legal to cultivate here; that narrow selection may change eventually, as well. With Second Judicial Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers waiving the temporary stay on smoking, as of June 11, medical marijuana patients are now essentially able to obtain flower from certified vendors, who in turn will soon begin to expand the varieties of strains to be available to their customers.

Certainly the situation in South Florida, where officials and entrepreneurs alike jumped in with both feet at the earliest possible opportunity, is far different from what we’re dealing with up here, but that comparison could be made about almost any aspect of social life in the Sunshine State, where Duval, Nassau, St. Johns and Clay counties collectively seem to be like a different planet from the triad of Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties. When it comes to maximizing profits for medical marijuana, Northeast Florida will be playing catch-up for quite some time, though maybe not as long as we once feared.