Canna-biz: A closer look at the medical marijuana industry in the Capital City

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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 19, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The cannabis business is booming in Florida.

The state currently has 13 active licensed marijuana treatment centers, 150 dispensing locations, 250,000 active patients and 2,500 physicians certified to issue prescriptions.

The growing industry is also helping the local economy, with the large Trulieve Farm in Gadsden County.

But it's not just dollars that have people happy about medical marijuana. One patient tells WCTV that it's changed his entire life.

"Over the years, it just; I had my own pharmacy, I started on the pills and I started my journey of being a pharmaceutical drug addict," Douglas Dixon said.

Multiple back injuries and years of pain put Dixon on a litany of opioid pills.

He also suffers from Fibromyalgia.

"What it feels like is someone has rubbed you with a wire brush and threw salt on it and just left you with an opened wound," he explained.

Now, Dixon only uses medical marijuana.

"I don't worry about the side effects anymore," he said. "Whether I'm going to fall out taking the pills or I'm going to make it to the bed, am I going to get up in the morning?"

The difference in Dixon's health: Showing his medical marijuana ID's.

"I don't get anxious anymore about anything. I can laugh about anything. If something arises, that's an emergency, I don't panic anymore."

Dixon utilizes products from Trulieve, a company with five cultivation sites - four in Gadsden County, alone - and 31 dispensaries around the state, one of many companies operating across Tallahassee.

"We kind of started as a scrappy band of pirates," Director of Cultivation Kyle Landrum said. "Now, we're shifting to more of the, a strategic navy fleet, thinking much larger scale."

Landrum sees the industry changing, with patients expecting more variety.

"It's been a rocket ship," he said. "We've been waiting, trying to get the patients the product that they need, they very much need to live a normal life."

The team of 10 has grown to more than 2,000 people state wide, with the largest employer in Gadsden County.

"We are very much gearing up for being able to supply double, three times the amount of medicine in the upcoming year," Landrum said. "We believe it's here to stay."

They're not the only ones putting their eggs in this basket. Or their buds in this field.

"In part, given the strong agricultural industry we have in the state, helping to transition to cannabis can be a great economic engine," Glenn Burhans said.

Stearns Weaver Miller shareholder Glenn Burhans says the industry could see major changes soon.

Pending litigation is challenging the caps on the number of licenses that can be used and pushing against the current requirement of vertical integration.

"Which means a company that cultivates the medical marijuana, processes it, also has to sell it," explained Burhans. "So, it's not a horizontal or flat market."

That helps control the number of people and companies involved and making inventory control, tracking and security more easily enforced and monitored.

Some claim it inhibits market growth.

And Dixon's advice for those who don't trust the medicine?

"It's been here since the beginning of time. It's always been here for us and I think we just need to use it," he said.

There have been recent pushes for decriminalization of recreational marijuana in some localities in Florida, and current court cases deal with how the medical industry will be regulated.

Still, according to Burhans, we can be sure that high levels of security will remain in place, for at least the next few years.



 
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