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How to Open a Dispensary in Florida (NEW Guide for 2024)

Overview

Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in Florida? This page is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information relevant to opening a cannabis business in Florida. This includes helpful insights on what is to come next for the state.

On January 19, 2021, State Representative Yvonne Hayes Hinson filed HB 291, a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. If passed, it would have allowed individuals aged 21 and older to use marijuana in limited amounts for personal purposes. However, the bill died in the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee on April 30, 2021.

In the same week, two Florida lawmakers introduced bills aiming to allow medical marijuana stores to sell recreational marijuana to residents of Florida: Pinellas County Sen. Jeff Brandes introduced SB 710 on January 21, 2021, while Orlando Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith filed HB 343 just a few days prior. Both of these bills would have allowed people aged 21 and older to purchase and use limited amounts of marijuana (up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis or a product with up to 2 grams of THC) without requiring a medical marijuana card. However, both bills died and did not pass into law.

On August 8th, 2022, the Florida company Trulieve Cannabis filed a constitutional amendment with the state’s Division of Elections to let anyone over 21 buy and use cannabis. Not only did Trulieve help write the proposal, but it has also given $5 million to the campaign, making it a major backer. More companies are also expected to help, and the Bellamy Brothers, a country and pop music duo, have already given their official support. Still, the campaign will have a hard time getting on the ballot; it needs to collect and send in the signatures of nearly 900,000 voters.

On December 19th, 2022, the Florida Department of Health issued emergency rules for organizations seeking a medical marijuana treatment center license to cultivate, process, and dispense medical marijuana. The state would not make all of the new licenses immediately available but would instead distribute them in “batches.” You can read the rules here.

On February 3rd, 2023, the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the state’s health officials would accept applications for medical marijuana licenses from April 24th to April 28th. A total of 22 new licenses were made available, bringing the total number of licensed operators to 44.

As May 2023 came to an end, Florida’s Department of State confirmed that a proposed ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana had gathered enough signatures for the 2024 ballot. The amendment, backed by Smart & Safe Florida, received 1,013,352 valid signatures as of July 31, surpassing the requirement. If approved, adults over 21 could possess up to three ounces of marijuana, and medical marijuana treatment centers could sell it for recreational use. 

On July 24th, 2023, the Florida Supreme Court granted a request by the state attorney general for more time to file a brief arguing against a marijuana legalization initiative on the 2024 ballot. The Attorney General’s office, along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Drug-Free America Foundation, cited numerous other responsibilities for the extension request. The proposed initiative faces opposition from the attorney general, who argues that the ballot summary is misleading. Despite the opposition, activists are confident the court will find the proposal compliant with constitutional requirements. As of January 2024, the Florida Supreme Court had heard oral arguments in the case. Activists remain confident that the court will find the proposal compliant with constitutional requirements, with the decision pending on whether it will appear on the November 2024 ballot.

Politicians and residents have expressed support for initiatives like these. 

  • On September 6th, 2023, a survey was released by the University of South Florida and Florida Atlantic University and found 60% support for adult-use marijuana legalization, matching the needed support for the initiative to pass. Democrats (71%), independents (59%), and Republicans (50%) support recreational reform, while medical cannabis has strong bipartisan backing: Democrats (87%), independents (84%), and Republicans (78%). 
  • A March 2023 poll from the University of North Florida (UNF) indicated 70 percent backing for legalization.

On December 15th, 2023, in a significant legislative move, Florida Republican Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez introduced a bill aimed at providing tax relief to licensed medical marijuana businesses. This legislation is designed to allow these businesses to claim state tax deductions that are currently disallowed under the federal IRS code 280E, reflecting a broader movement across various states to establish tax parity for the cannabis industry amidst financial barriers imposed by federal prohibition. On the other hand, on December 19th, a contrasting scenario unfolded with the withdrawal of a grassroots initiative led by Moriah Barnhart, which sought to legalize the home cultivation of medical marijuana by patients. This initiative faced financial hurdles, raising just over $4,000, which was insufficient to cover the costs associated with qualifying the measure for the 2024 ballot. The withdrawal of the home cultivation initiative underscores the significant challenges faced by grassroots movements in influencing marijuana legislation in Florida, especially when contrasted against the backdrop of well-funded, industry-backed campaigns. 

On February 1st, 2024, the Florida House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee took a preemptive step by approving a bill, HB 1269, to set THC limits for recreational marijuana in anticipation of a future vote on legalization.

On February 8th, 2024, the Florida Senate Health Policy Committee introduced SB 7050, proposing a 30% THC cap for smokable marijuana and a 60% limit for non-smokable forms, with edibles capped at 200 milligrams per package. This move, reflecting a shift towards more liberal potency limits, is part of Florida’s preparation for a potential cannabis legalization vote. By February 15th, 2024, the bill had garnered significant public support and attention, marking a cautious yet progressive step in establishing a regulatory framework aimed at controlling marijuana potency and serving sizes, especially for edibles. With 57% support reported by the Florida Chamber of Commerce for the adult-use initiative, this legislative effort highlights Florida’s detailed approach to refining its marijuana policies in anticipation of economic and societal benefits, as it seeks the 60% support necessary for constitutional amendments.

On March 8th, 2024, Governor Ron DeSantis reiterated his opposition to the adult-use marijuana legalization measure, citing concerns about odor and business impact. Despite nearly one million signatures supporting the measure, the Florida Supreme Court has not yet decided on its inclusion on the ballot. While DeSantis opposed legalization, he recognized the potential for significant sales tax revenue from legalized cannabis but expressed a preference for addressing regulatory concerns over economic benefits. In response, the campaign behind the measure, Smart and Safe Florida, stated that their proposal allows lawmakers to regulate outdoor and public consumption, aligning with Florida’s tobacco laws.

On April 1st, 2024, the Florida Supreme Court approved Amendment 3 for the November 2024 ballot, a measure to legalize recreational marijuana that requires 60% approval to pass. Despite its clearance, Governor Ron DeSantis expressed skepticism about achieving the necessary voter support. 

Following this, on April 11th, the Florida Division of Elections reported that the legalization initiative received significant financial backing, with contributions totaling $14,875,000 from various businesses, mainly large cannabis companies. 

Support for the Florida marijuana legalization amendment has fluctuated in recent polls. According to an April 18th, 2024 poll, less than 50% supported the amendment. By May 11th, 2024, a poll showed support rose to 58% but still fell short of the required 60%. However, a Fox News poll on June 6, 2024, showed 66% support, surpassing the needed threshold.

The Opportunity Size

Current estimates project that recreational marijuana sales will top $32 billion by 2024. With a population size projected to reach approximately 21.9 million in 2021, it’s clear that the state will be a hot market for recreational marijuana.

Additionally, the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state will have significant effects on its projected tax revenue. According to state economists, retail impacts would amount to $2.1 billion, sales tax would reach $128 million, and tourism sales and taxes could peak at $672 million. This also has the added benefit of preventing budget cuts to essential sectors such as healthcare and education.

Had recreational marijuana been approved in 2020, experts say that it could have added $190 million in sales tax and tourism dollars to Florida annually and could have increased the number of jobs related to hemp, cannabis, and marijuana by more than sevenfold by 2025.

Local Cannabis Restrictions and Laws

As recreational marijuana rules start to change in a state, it is not uncommon for towns and municipalities to enforce their own rules for what is allowed and what is not. Some communities will strongly support state legislation, while others will show mixed support, and a few will almost certainly disagree with whatever the state decides.

Sarasota County, for example, has moved once again to restrict recreational marijuana, regardless of its legalization status in the state. Meanwhile, cities such as Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Margate, Tamarac, Pembroke Pines, Delray Beach, Highland Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Royal Palm Beach, Sea Ranch Lakes, and Southwest Ranches have enforced bans on marijuana dispensaries.

Medical Marijuana

On November 8, 2016, the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative (also known as Amendment 2) was included on the Florida ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment and was afterward approved. Less than a year later, on June 9, 2017, the Florida State Legislature passed SB 8A, also known as the Medical Use of Marijuana Act, which defined the medical conditions qualifying a patient for medical marijuana. The stated conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Cannabis Business Opportunities

An April 26, 2024 report from the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) says that Florida has seen significant growth in its medical marijuana program. 880,240 people qualify for medical marijuana in the state. The number of qualified doctors has reached 2,385, providing necessary medical oversight and recommendations for patients. Additionally, the state has expanded its dispensing locations to accommodate the growing demand, with a total of 633 dispensing locations now operational. This expansion reflects the increasing accessibility and acceptance of medical marijuana as a treatment option in Florida.

Medical Cannabis Dispensary Application Fee and Guidelines

To open a dispensary in Florida, there are rules and regulations provided by the Department of Health, which include an initial application fee requirement of $60,063. You must have a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center license to be able to dispense, cultivate, process, and transport medical marijuana in Florida.

It is important to note, however, that the state department is not accepting applications for MMTCs at this time. An application rule and the date on which the OMMU will begin accepting applications shall be published in the Florida Administrative Register.

Recreational Dispensaries

Despite public support for adult-use marijuana, the road to legalization is not expected to be an easy one. One of the biggest problems would be heavy opposition from Central Florida, where theme parks and the hospitality industry are against legalizing marijuana to keep the area’s reputation as a “family-friendly” place to visit.

If legislative efforts for marijuana legalization do not succeed, the decision may ultimately rest with Florida’s voters. The Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative (Amendment 3) is slated to potentially appear as an initiated constitutional amendment on the ballot on November 5, 2024. This initiative aims to legalize recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older, allowing them to possess up to three ounces of marijuana, including up to five grams in concentrate form. Under this initiative, existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers would be authorized to sell marijuana to adults for personal use. Additionally, the Florida State Legislature could establish laws for licensing entities other than existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to cultivate and sell marijuana products.

Recreational Use Dispensary Application Guidelines

Had HB 291 been approved, the following guidelines would have been established for applications related to recreational use dispensaries:

An applicant for a marijuana business license will have to fill out the form that the division requires for the type of license they want. According to the bill, the division will begin accepting and processing applications by August 1, 2022. Upon receipt of an application, the division shall promptly forward a copy of the application and half of the license application fee to the locality in which the applicant wishes to operate. A license can be given or renewed if the applicant meets all the requirements within 90 days of the application.

Future Plans

As mentioned earlier, the Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative may appear on the state ballot as an initiated constitutional amendment. A petition for this is being led by Nick Hansen, chairman of Make It Legal Florida. According to Hansen, judging from the normalization of medical marijuana use in the state, the odds of approval are good if the decision were to be placed in voters’ hands.

As Florida moves toward full legalization, many new events will unfold that will be relevant to those looking to start a cannabis business in Florida. By adding yourself to Cannaspire’s Florida Cannabis Mailing List (below), you will be updated on how to open a dispensary in Florida and all relevant sunshine state news that matters, difficult-to-find news, and commentary from key figures involved in Florida’s recreational and medical cannabis industry.

This includes, but is not limited to,

  • When will new Florida cannabis license applications be available?
  • How much will it cost to open a dispensary in Florida?
  • What are the requirements to open a dispensary in Florida?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more 

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