By Brian Skinner, Esq.
Edible medical marijuana is now on the shelves of Florida medical cannabis dispensaries after the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use, quietly published emergency rules on Aug. 26. Sales of edibles are forecasted to generate up to $250 million in sales in the first full year. This boost to the Florida’s three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar medical cannabis market comes less than 18 months after the state allowed the sale of flower, which roughly doubled sales.
Edibles are a popular method of delivery for both medicinal and recreational cannabis. Patients who are certified to use medical marijuana consider edibles to be a safe and discreet way to take marijuana. However, because of the potential that children, pets, and others can accidentally consume candies, cookies, and other goods containing marijuana, legislators have been reluctant to authorize the sale of medical marijuana in an edible form.
The ability to sell edibles comes at a time when Florida’s medical marijuana market continues to grow at a rapid pace, with the number of qualified patients recently exceeding 400,000, up 25% since the beginning of the year, when the patient count was 299,000. Experts believe edible sales will be approximately 20% of the total market making which means edibles sales may eclipse $250 million in 2021, the first full year of sales.
The Marijuana Business Factbook projects that Florida medical marijuana revenues will total $950 million to $1.2 billion in 2021. Those projections don’t take into account edibles sales. Total medical marijuana sales in Florida this year are expected to reach $775 million to $950 million, up from an estimated $475 million to $575 million in 2019.
Edible medical marijuana has been available in Ohio since May 2019, and in that same month Maryland authorized the sale of edible marijuana, however edible products are not yet available for sale. Virginia authorized the possession of authorized medical cannabis products on July 1, 2020. That program will allow edible products will be in the form of lozenges, gelatin cubes, and lollipops, much like at compounding pharmacies.
Neither Pennsylvania or West Virginia allow the sale of edible forms of medical marijuana, but patients may make their own edibles from lawfully purchased forms of medical cannabis.
Florida’s medical marijuana operators have been preparing for edibles for quite some time. Sarasota-based AltMed Florida has 25 dispensaries across the state operating under the MüV brand. Another medical marijuana operator, Trulieve recently built out a 10,000-square-foot commercial-grade kitchen and is making a branded product line of gummies and chocolates.
According to the new Florida regulations, edibles:
- Must not resemble commercially available candy.
- Must be in geometric shapes (not animal shapes).
- Can include baked goods, chocolate, drink powders, lozenges and gelatins.
A single serving portion of an edible may not exceed 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A multi- serving edible may not exceed a total of 200 milligrams of THC.
Despite the concerns about the accidental consumption of medical cannabis by children, and even pets, West Virginia legislators may want to consider adding edibles to the list of authorized forms of medical cannabis available for sale. Because of the state’s small market for medical cannabis and the potential that surrounding states may soon authorize adult-use sales of marijuana, some have voiced concerns that the state’s medical cannabis operators will find it difficult to realize a profitable return on their investment.
Even though the state’s program has yet to get off the ground, legislators have been tweaking the law that authorizes the medical cannabis program. Given the boost that edibles appear to be having on the medical marijuana market in Florida, it may be time for West Virginia policy makers to consider making another change to the state’s medical cannabis law to take advantage of this popular form of medical cannabis products.
Brian is the former counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegates Judiciary Committee and counsel to the West Virginia Senate Minority Caucus. He was also general counsel to the West Virginia State Health Officer and Commissioner for the Bureau for Public Health where he assisted in the establishment of the state’s Office of medical Cannabis. He has almost two-decades of experience as a strategic advisor and chief legal counsel to both executive and legislative branch public officials.