Just one week after health officials signed off on guidelines for edible pot products, Florida’s largest medical marijuana operator on Wednesday began selling THC-infused brownies, cookies, chocolates and gel caps in Tallahassee.
The edible products are appearing on shelves nearly four years after Floridians approved a 2016 constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients and nearly three years after state legislators passed a law carrying out the amendment.
Quincy-based Trulieve Cannabis Corp., whose owners built a 10,000-square-foot commercial-grade kitchen facility in anticipation of the guidelines, was the first of the state’s medical marijuana operators to sell the edible products.
Arnold Lawson, a retired paramedic from Tallahassee, bought a package of 10 blueberry TruGels candies for $25 on Wednesday.
“As a paramedic, my back started giving me problems years ago; surgery after surgery, pill after pill. I took Percocet, 60 milligrams a day, for 12 years. Now I take zero,” Lawson told reporters as he made his purchase.
The availability of edibles in Florida comes as the number of eligible medical marijuana patients nears 400,000, according to the state Department of Health.
Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers predicted that the consumable products are likely to expand the number of patients.
“We think that folks who could benefit from medical cannabis have simply been waiting on the sidelines, because they haven’t seen a product or a product format that they are interested in. So, we do believe this will add to the explosive growth we have already seen in Florida among medical patients,” she told reporters Wednesday.
The Department of Health last week issued an emergency rule establishing guidelines for edible products, largely carrying out restrictions included in the 2017 state law. The rule is designed to discourage children from consuming marijuana-laced products that include the euphoria-inducing compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
The regulations require edible products to be in geometric shapes, bans “icing, sprinkles, or other toppings of any kind” and said the products cannot “bear a reasonable resemblance to commercially available candy.”
The rule dictates that “edibles shall be produced in a manner to minimize color intensity and other color and visual characteristics attractive to children.”
Last year, Trulieve, which is publicly traded on the Canadian Securities Exchange, was the first company in the state to start selling smokable marijuana.
Trulieve’s first whole-flower sales in March 2019 came days after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a measure that repealed the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana. The Republican governor urged legislators to do away with the ban, making the repeal one of his first priorities after taking office in January 2019.
About 50 to 60 percent of medical marijuana sales are smokable products, according to industry experts.
But smoking doesn’t work for everyone, Rivers acknowledged Wednesday.
“Our average customer age in the state of Florida is 50 years old. Many of our patients aren’t interested in inhalation products or something that they need to smoke. This (edibles) gives a great alternative to taking another pill,” she said.
The Trulieve CEO said there has been “pent up demand” among patients for edible products.
“We hear from our existing patients, literally on a daily basis, ‘When are edibles coming, when are edibles coming?’ So, we know that on our existing patient base, there is certainly interest and excitement around this product line,” she said.
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