The quick growth comes despite regulatory obstacles such as state delays in processing patient cards
The Florida Department of Health counted 100,576 patients as of Friday 20th April, and about 2,500 people join the list each week. Out of those only 75,208 of the registered patients have been issued ID cards allowing them to purchase the marijuana treatment, and nearly 3,000 more applications for the cards are being processed.
The quick growth comes despite regulatory obstacles such as state delays in processing patient cards. That challenge seems to have eased in recent months, said Lindsay Jones, chief executive of Curaleaf, a Miami-based pot producer.
Due to the increased number of patients registering the demand has outgrown supply, with dispensaries often facing shortages of products.
Curaleaf’s Jones said his company has remedied one supply problem. Hurricane Irma struck just a glancing blow to Curaleaf’s cultivation facility in southwestern Miami-Dade County, but Curaleaf lost a significant chunk of the plants from which it extracts cannabidiol, or CBD.
“It’s not like Hurricane Irma destroyed the facility. It didn’t. It was minor damage,” Jones said. “But a little damage at a cultivation center can have a profound impact.”
Cannabis farms are carefully climate controlled, and even small changes in factors such as sunlight and humidity can damage crops.
“Marijuana plants are very finicky,” Jones said. “We have to control the environment that they’re in, or they will morph and reproduce.”
Florida voters broadly legalized medical marijuana in a constitutional amendment nearly two years ago, but state regulators are fighting a series of legal and administrative challenges about the laws and rules related to the burgeoning industry.
Smokable marijuana remains illegal in Florida, so the state’s dispensaries sell only oils and extracts. The “flower” form of the plant isn’t available. Nor are edibles.
Florida allows the sale of medical marijuana to patients who receive a doctor’s permission. A physician can recommend cannabis to treat a number of conditions, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.
With all of the costs associated with the program approx. $200 for an exam, $75 per year for the medical marijuana card and then the monthly amount spent in dispensary’s. None of which is covered by insurance because it still remains federally illegal.
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