Patient enrollment in Florida’s medical marijuana program is off to an explosive start. More than 30,000 patients have enrolled in the MMJ program since June. That’s a staggering 183% increase.
If that expansion rate continues, more physicians will be needed. Currently, the state has qualified just over 1,000 physicians to recommend medical marijuana. In order to try to keep up with the growth, a law reducing both the cost and number of hours for physician certification recently went into effect.
Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use hasn’t been understaffed and unable to handle the number of patients seeking access to MMJ. Officials report a backlog of up to 6,000 patients.
71% of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 last November in a ballot initiative authorizing a full-fledged MMJ program in the state. The new program builds on a previous program that was limited to CBD-only treatment and covered very few conditions.
Currently, only 19 dispensaries have opened in Florida. The law allows for 17 vertically integrated medical cannabis producers. Each producer is allowed to open 25 dispensaries. Four more licenses will be issued and existing licensees will be allowed to open another four dispensaries for every additional 100,000 patients who register in the program. To date, 12 MMJ licenses have been issued.
Florida’s newly expanded program launched this past June, after half a year of squabbling over the details. In a controversial move, lawmakers axed some of the more popular pieces of the legislation. Final rules prohibit smokable cannabis and cultivation rights. Both of those decisions are being contested via lawsuits against the state.
Before Florida’s CBD-only program was expanded, the state had about 17,000 patients. By the end of October, that number was already up to 46,952. Ben Pollara, executive director of Florida for Care, expects patient counts to reach 100,000 by March or April 2018.