“Growing” Pains: The Medical Marijuana Industry in Florida

What They’re Doing Right and Wrong

Ellen Cortez-Owner
Mind & Body Essentials, Sarasota Florida
“Soothing relief in a stressful world”
ellen@mindbody-essentials.com

The Medical Marijuana Industry in Florida

Florida is growing and, in more ways, than one. New Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTC’s) are popping up at a rate of one per week. The month of May introduced eleven new dispensaries alone. However, there is a growing concern: are we growing in the right direction?

The trifecta of required vertical integration (licensing for growing, manufacturing and distribution), is keeping most farmers out of the race.  The cost to apply for the license which is non-refundable, is over 60K and the application is comparable to reading the entire IRS website.  It doesn’t stop there – you better be ready to pony up close to $50 Million to get from seed to store.

We currently have ten, “farmers,” who have completed the entire course and are getting their product out to the people. Of those ten, three control over 80% of the field. Is it worth it? Definitely. Florida’s projected market is set to top $1 billion dollars in the next year alone. I interviewed Angela Mynatt, CEO and Founder of, Mindful Medicinals, here in Sarasota, FL and asked for her opinion on vertical integration. “Vertical integration is horrible for the mom and pop establishments, that usually have the better product and compassion for the patients.”

Why should we care, you may ask? Florida only allows each MMTC to carry the cannabis that they produce. That means as of right now, three companies mostly decide what’s best for Florida residents and their condition. So, if sativa works better for you than indica, you may need to do some shopping. Looking for a little 9-Pound Hammer or White Willow? Don’t expect your doctor (or even the dispensary staff) to know the difference! Or, as Mynatt puts it, “Where is the Bubba Kush? The best strain for PTSD and NOBODY has it!”

That brings us to the education of the doctors. In order to receive a license to prescribe medical marijuana, a physician pays $250 dollars for a whopping 2-hour course.

How is anyone expected to understand the different strains of cannabis and what it’s best used for in that amount of time? Even if it was covered in the class (which it doesn’t appear to be), how are they expected to explain to their patients with any degree of accuracy? It takes longer than that to get your indoor grow system out of the box and set up! Bubba Kush; Bubba Burger – can you (they) spot the difference? . Our older population are the ones paying the most for this absence of education. Approximately 45% of those seeking a medical cannabis card here in Florida, are over the age of 50. Our age group still thinks that, “hog leg,” and, “doobie,” are appropriate terms when describing what they want to their doctors. Or, maybe, that’s just me.

When asked about education within the cannabis community, Mynatt responded, “Education is extremely important; I strive to create a place of learning in my shop and throughout the community. No one, from the doctor to budtender (the guy behind the counter at the dispensary), is giving correct information to the patients. I have older people coming to me all the time with the wrong strains and dosage amounts for their conditions. This is causing them to not trust cannabis as a medicine; a real tragedy.”

Does the whole system seem set up more with money than people in mind? As of now we have just over 2,293 prescribing physicians in Florida to cover the 298,337 patients who have active ID cards. Math time! So, doctors pay $250 each + patients pay $75 each. This is equating to a hell of a lot of money going to the government and that’s just for the first year.

We still have such a long way to go in order to get our system straightened out, but I feel we are on the right track. Just this year our Governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the bill to lift the ban on smoking medical marijuana that was enacted in 2017 and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott.

We may also be seeing the first steps (hopefully) toward removing the obstacle of vertical integration in the state and allowing a little more free-market enterprise. Who knows? Maybe one day, The Sunshine State, will have, Sunshine, on its strain list at our local dispensaries.

Contributing interview:
Angela Mynatt-CEO/founder
Mindful Medicinals 941-374-4817
https://mindfulmedicinalssrq.com/

*All opinions expressed (and sarcastic comments) are entirely my own. Statistical information can be reviewed on the FMA and OMMU websites.


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