One of the most contentious elements in Florida’s medical cannabis industry is who gets to grow and sell the drug. Lawmakers approved a limited number of companies to ensure security, but now some see the state’s seven growers as a cartel.
House lawmakers are hoping to learn from Colorado as they implement the medical marijuana initiative Amendment Two. That state’s former marijuana czar Andrew Freedman says a robust tracking system is probably more important than market structure.
“In the long term that didn’t really help in regulation all that much—vertical integration,” Freedman says. “And we found no big difference between horizontal integration and vertical integration in the long run for how easy it was to track our licensees and regulate them.”
Right now, Florida’s system is vertically integrated—meaning companies are responsible for growing, processing and selling their treatments. Freedman explains that setup has its drawbacks and Colorado moved away from it.
“I would say that if you did have very few licensees, and you did only allow for vertical integration, that there would be a concern that there would become a few actors that were very powerful in the space,” Freedman says, “and so there is some thought that I would have towards how big and how powerful you want actors vs. how big and how powerful you want the industry to be.”
But changes for Florida could be in the works. A proposal in the Senate would allow the state’s growers to buy and sell raw products among themselves. It would also allow for as many as 20 new growers once Florida has half a million qualified patients.