Florida: Opportunities in this Uniquely Broken Cannabis Program
Florida is a state that treats cannabis like no other. Whether it’s meandering lawsuits, head-scratching laws, or straight-up government sabotage, Florida is what we in the cannabis consulting world often use as the example of what not to do.
So why is it such a perennially popular topic? Because millions of Floridians want cannabis, and a select handful of companies are selling a massive amount of it.
Advocates fought hard to bring medical cannabis to the sunshine state. It was a multi-year fight at that, culminating in 71.3% of voters in 2016 voting to allow a THC medical program.
(Full disclosure: Canna Advisors donated money to these advocates, as our company does for all advocacy work we believe will help patients and the industry.)
There have been far too many lawsuits to explain in this blog post, but the current status they have led to is this:
There are 15 operating vertical cannabis companies in the state.
These are forced, siloed verticals, meaning that a single license allows you to grow, process, and sell your own cannabis only. They collectively run 338 dispensaries.
There are an additional seven “paper” licenses, which do not yet have operating dispensaries.
Though application forms are technically available for another round of licenses, the process is frozen, as the state has yet to set a due date.
One reason for holding off on taking applications may have been waiting to see whether adult-use cannabis would be legalized in the near future, which has just been resolved by the courts, at least for a time.
A proposed adult-use legalization ballot initiative was struck down in May 2021, because it would have asked voters whether to “permit” adult-use cannabis without mentioning that it remains federally illegal.
Despite years of attempts to hinder the program by various state officials, the patient count is thriving nonetheless, and opportunities do indeed exist to enter the market.
First, one can purchase one of these existing licenses.
A paper-only license will cost less than one with locations, but will still cost millions, and require you to build out the facilities it allows.
Second, you can get a job at one of these operating companies.
This can be a great opportunity to learn the cannabis business while still supporting yourself financially.
Finally, you can — and should — work with advocates to expand the state’s rigid system.
Sensible Florida, Inc. is one group working on this effort, which is accepting both donations and volunteers. If you live in Florida, reach out to representatives at every level of government and let them know how much you care about making cannabis more accessible—and that you plan to vote accordingly.
Ultimately, Florida will open up to more cannabis businesses — though we may be waiting for years.
If your long-term plans include a Florida cannabis business but your pocketbook doesn’t allow for an acquisition presently, there are many other new states joining the cannabis revolution right now.
Get in contact with us to explore which option is the right fit for your goals and resources.