Florida medical marijuana industry still booming during COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida medical marijuana industry still booming during COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s now August, more than five months since the insidious coronavirus reared its ugly head in Florida. How is the marijuana industry fairing in a state that has been devastated by this scourge? It’s actually doing very well, thank you.

As Florida’s COVID-19 case count nears the half-million mark with more than 6,000 deaths and an average of more than 10,000 new cases being reported each day in July, business seems to be booming for most of the state’s marijuana dispensaries. 

Sadly the cannabiz is about the only thing fairing well in Florida these days.

Florida COVID-19 statistics

Before we get to the good news for Florida’s medical marijuana industry, let’s look at the bad news for just about everyone else.

If Florida were a country it would rank 9th in COVID cases, according to Johns Hopkins data. Moreover, Florida is ranked among the top five states in the U.S. in terms of unemployment stats. 

Worse, more than one-third of those seeking unemployment checks had received nothing between March 15 and July 7, according to state stats. And although the rate of new unemployment claims has slowed in recent weeks, another shutdown could push it back to new heights.

Here are some additional statistics we gathered related on Florida’s COVID woes:

  • Florida is one of 21 U.S. states in the “red zone,” according to a federal report dated July 26.

  • Florida recently posted more new cases in a single day than the entire US in the first couple of months — more than 15,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — a new record for the most new cases in a single day from any state.

  • Florida’s death toll due to COVID-19 is equal to 10 jumbo jets crashing.

  • Florida has 12 times the number of cases of Australia and South Korea combined. Both countries have larger populations than Florida. 

  • Florida has three times the number of COVID-19 cases as China, according to Johns Hopkins data…. and China.

  • Only eight countries have higher counts than Florida, one being the United States, also Brazil, India, Russia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

  • More than 100 countries have fewer COVID-19 cases than Florida, including France, Germany, and Japan.

  • Florida ranked 5th in the nation for most unemployment claims one week in July, with first-time claims surpassing 67,000, trailing behind only California, Texas, Georgia, and New York.

  • Orange County, Florida alone posted more than 200,000 unemployment claims in June.

Florida’s medical marijuana industry is thriving

Although the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating to Florida’s economy, the state’s cannabis industry has been thriving. In fact, the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries have seen record sales since the pandemic began with dried flower sales up by 30 percent since lockdowns began in the state.

Many Floridians, especially older residents, now rely on medical marijuana to relieve ailments such as chronic pain, anxiety, menopause, depression, sleep disorders, and much more.

Thankfully for the state’s cannabis concerns, the industry was declared essential by Gov. Ron DeSantis during shutdowns. However, DeSantis is not the hero here. According to the state’s constitutional amendment cannabis dispensaries are considered to be “pharmacies” and therefore automatically qualify as indispensable.

Another factor that has saved the state’s marijuana operations from a near-death experience is its allowance for home delivery. Since the pandemic took hold, more and more Floridians are choosing to shop online on the individual dispensary sites or alternative platforms sites such as FLDispensaries.com for their medicine at a dispensary.

The state also issued an emergency order allowing followup appointments with Florida medical marijuana doctors via “telemedicine,” which is the act of consulting with a patient via phone or video conference. Initial consultations must still be handled in person.

So how well are the Florida Dispensaries holding up during the pandemic?

Multi-state operator Trulieve enjoys a dominant position in Florida’s medical marijuana market with more than 50 percent of the state’s share of marijuana sales. Trulieve added four dispensaries in this first half of the year bringing their total to 46 shops. The cannabis giant has been moving more than 500 ounces of flower per store every month. 

Curaleaf, one of the largest multi-state cannabis chains in the country, has experienced a two-to-three-fold increase in home deliveries in Florida. And another chain, MUV opened 12 new locations this year, more than doubling in size to a total of 23 dispensaries with plans to open 10 more by the end of the year. While many industries are furloughing workers, MUV has hired hundreds of new employees and expects to have upwards of 800 employees by the end of the year.

Sarasota-based AltMed Florida and New York-based Columbia Care have also been beefing up their Florida operations in recent months. 

According to data supplied by state regulators, Florida has seen a groundswell of new patients since the pandemic began with tens of thousands of new patients applying for a Florida medical marijuana card. That’s about 300 new patients every single day.

The most popular product among the state’s 360,000 card-holding medical marijuana patients is dried flower used for smoking, vaping, and cooking. In fact, patients purchased more than one ton of medical marijuana in one week, according to state-supplied data.

Unfortunately, not all of Floridas medical marijuana dispensaries are thriving. Within a month of emergency actions, MedMen had shuttered five of its eight locations in the state, although did recently open a new location in Fort Lauderdale. 

Meanwhile, another potential boon for Florida’s cannabis industry struck an iceberg when a recreational marijuana legalization initiative aimed at making the 2020 ballot was nixed due to COVID concerns. However, advocates are working hard to get the measure onto the 2022 ballot. 

Pandemic aside, Florida’s medical marijuana market is poised for continued growth in the coming years and is believed to be on track to post more than half a billion dollars in sales in 2020.

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