As legal marijuana dispensaries hope Floridians vote in November to allow recreational weed, they face a troubling trend: Right now, their flow of new customers is drying up.

The state’s medical marijuana industry is stagnating, data shows. Experts say a slowdown in new patients means the success of the largest marijuana companies in the state could depend on the proposed amendment.

“This is really their only opportunity for growth,” said former Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, who supports the legalization effort.

Amendment 3 would allow Floridians 21 and older to buy and possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana. At least 60% of voters need to support the measure for it to pass.

So far, the largest donor to the effort has been cannabis behemoth Trulieve, which has provided nearly $50 million of the $55 million raised by the amendment’s sponsor.

Today, cannabis companies are limited to selling to the almost 900,000 Florida residents who have been referred by a doctor for a medical marijuana card. Allowing recreational use would mean the same firms could sell to anyone of age.

That growth would be explosive. In an April filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers wrote that recreational marijuana could transform Florida, with its tens of millions of annual tourists, into the “largest legal cannabis market in the world.”

In response to emailed questions, Rivers said the medical market has expanded at different rates over the years. Her company expects the state to continue to add medical patients. And Rivers said Trulieve’s push for recreational marijuana is motivated by more than simple finances.

“Our support for adult use in Florida is driven by our conviction that no one should be in jail for small quantities of cannabis for personal consumption, and adults should have the option to buy and consume legal, tested products,” Rivers said.

In Missouri, marijuana sales more than doubled in the quarter after the launch of recreational use last year, according to data from market research firm BDSA. Other states have seen similar results.

Florida’s pool of registered medical marijuana patients has grown by less than 14,000 people in 2024, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis of data through early May. That’s less than half the growth in the same period a year ago.

Sales peaked at $660 million last spring. Since then, the industry has recorded two consecutive quarters of lower revenues, according to the market research firm.

If voters approve Amendment 3, the windfall from new customers would likely benefit a handful oflarge companies because of how Florida has structured the state’s market.

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State law requires businesses that sell marijuana in Florida to grow, process and cultivate it as well. Companies have to invest heavily in their operations to do all of these things well.

Recreational marijuana would use the same licensing structure as medical marijuana unless lawmakers change the rules. Republican leaders have shown little desire to reform the market.

The only companies that have proven able to thrive under these requirements are the industry’s titans. Four companies — Trulieve, Müv, Ayr Cannabis Dispensary and Curaleaf — account for more than half of the state’s 633 dispensaries.

All four businesses or their parent companies have donated money to the recreational use amendment’s campaign.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, in a challenge to the proposed amendment, argued in a brief to the state’s Supreme Court that the proposal would entrench “the sponsor’s monopolistic stranglehold on the marijuana market to the detriment of Floridians.”

Verano, which operates Müv dispensaries, also pushed back on the idea that medical marijuana in Florida lacks the potential for growth without the amendment.

Innovative products and growing retail footprints will keep resourceful companies growing for years, said Darren Weiss, the president of Verano. Even if the number of medical patients is not growing as fast as it once was, Floridians remain interested in using cannabis for medical purposes, he said.

“The medical program as constructed today may be reaching its upper limits but that does not mean the demand is being met,” Weiss said.

Nearly 1 in 25 people in Florida are registered as medical marijuana patients, the third-highest rate in the U.S., according to BDSA, the market research firm. The numbers suggest the state is simply running out of potential patients.

But Weiss said some would-be patients in Florida aren’t accessing the market because of the mandatory annual $75 license fee and doctor visit. One major reason Verano is supporting the expansion of cannabis in Florida is to make the plant available to all who want to use it medicinally, Weiss said.

Amanda Reiman, an executive with New Frontier Data, said the slowdown in marijuana patients is expected as the market matures. She said the state is approaching a point where the laws around access will have to change to expand the pool of eligible customers.

Industry observers have long suspected that cannabis operators supporting medical marijuana access are doing so to get on the ground floor of what would eventually become a recreational marijuana market.

Florida state Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican opponent of Amendment 3, said he thinks adult-use legalization was always the plan for cannabis companies. He also said the licensing framework in place would favor only the large companies if the amendment passes.

“It’s analogous to the way casinos used to work. You provided a monopoly to a small number of operators, and they would make a ton of money, and it didn’t necessarily benefit the local community,” he said.

 Growth of the medical market is slowing down.  Read More  

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