5 Ways Florida Dispensaries Can Improve in 2019

As we’ve touched on before, most Florida Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) are doing a fantastic job provided patient access considering the hostile state-regulated environment they’ve had to deal with for the past 2 years. That all finally looks to be changing as the first domino towards widespread, affordable patient access came today (January 4) as Judge Karen Gievers became the second judge to rule that the current limit on the amount of dispensaries an MMTC can open is unconstitutional. With an increasing likelihood that similar results will come from next Tuesday’s trial on the smoking ban, it appears that the foundation is being set for Florida’s cannabis market to explode this year. With this impending growth comes an important question: How can Florida MMTCs optimize their operations to truly serve Florida cannabis patients, all while keeping their business successful and profitable? We’ve been watching the trends over the past year, and a few key issues stand out. We believe if the Florida cannabis businesses can improve on these items, they will see a lucrative year ahead, and the patients will experience the benefits firsthand in more widely available and more affordable products.

1.) Focus on full-spectrum products and keep them in stock

If watching the various Florida Trees subreddits in 2018 taught us one thing, it’s that patients love their full-spectrum products: flower, shatter, crumble, terpene (terp) sauce have been the most widely desired products this past year, and consequently have been some of the most difficult to consistently acquire – particularly shatter (we still haven’t gotten to try any). We’ve seen the research that proves cannabinoids like THC and CBD work much better together than individually; this phenomenon has been dubbed the “entourage effect” – and patients love it. We saw that patients really did not particularly enjoy food-grade terpenes and vape carts cut with MCT Oil. It’s our belief that the most lucrative market involves making full-spectrum products and products with cannabis-derived terpenes much more widely available. Other products have their value, of course, but it seems that the real medicinal benefits (and potential for profit) lie within the natural products like flower, shatter, crumble, etc.

2.) Train employees to be more knowledgable and professional

More often than not, the MMTC employees get it right. They’re knowledgable. They’re friendly. They help you get in and out (or deliver) as quickly as possible. However, we’ve seen plenty of Reddit users with experiences that weren’t so stellar: mainly unknowledgeable or unprofessional employees. We at FMCC believe that every MMTC employee should at least have a basic knowledge of cannabis and its different cannabinoids and be able to effectively communicate that with the assumption that the patient they are talking to has absolutely zero knowledge of cannabis or its medicinal benefits. Professionalism is key as well; I’ve gotten more than one call center employee from various MMTCs that spoke in a way that definitely did not leaving me feeling that I had experienced superior customer service or that the employee truly cared to assist me as a patient. In a patient-centric business, employees need to be able to act with empathy, compassion, and understanding in all facets of the business. This means being educated on cannabis and always projecting that when doing business or assisting their customers.

3.) More reliable Delivery and Phone/Online Ordering

We’ve seen all too many patients complain of inconsistencies in the ordering process, particularly with respect to online ordering and how accurate its product stock is for a given location. Some patients don’t even use the online ordering system for their local dispensary because, according to them, it is never reliable or accurate and never guarantees an order. We’ve personally seen some websites that aren’t set up to be the most user-friendly. This needs to be addressed somehow: get a consistent system that keeps online ordering and in-store or phone ordering on the same page with product availability and order placement. Patients should be able to log on to a site for any given dispensary and be confident that what they are seeing in stock is in fact currently stocked at that physical location. The whole system needs to be looked at from a fresh perspective and great care should be taken to ensure the process is as effective as possible from the patient’s perspective.

4.) Better Sales/Promotions

We won’t sugarcoat it – some of the sales we saw in 2018 were downright silly. We want to make a disclaimer that we appreciate any sale or attempt to balance profit with patient access and affordability; we noticed that some MMTCs had few or no sales during times when all the other MMTCs had sales available. We think the social media teams really need to listen to the market and find a way to give the products they want at times that are mutually beneficial for the business and the patient. The end result will most likely always be lucrative.

5.) Don’t Forget about the Panhandle

We get it: state regulations and licensing caps cause so many problems for MMTCs that are beyond the scope of most patients. Dispensaries have to be opened in places that will show a return on the investment, more so because of all the regulations in place. However, 2018 was a disappointing year for variety in the Panhandle. Places like Pensacola only have access to 2 or 3 dispensaries when there are over a dozen MMTCs opening dispensaries all throughout the state. South Florida obviously has some of the highest population density, so naturally we expect them to see the bulk of dispensary openings, but many MMTCs seem to have completely neglected Northwest, North Central, and Northeast Florida during 2018. We hope to see this change as court rulings continue to be in favor of the cannabis market and its patients. Though most MMTCs do offer statewide delivery, it simply isn’t the same as going into a physical brick-and-mortar store for some patients. Hopefully the Panhandle will have a much wider variety to choose from when 2019 is over – we’re pulling for it!

We expect continued (possibly explosive) growth of Florida’s cannabis market this year, and hope the MMTCs are truly listening to what the patients have to say. It can make all the difference in future business!

As always, thank you for your time reading our content; we genuinely hope it has been to the benefit of at least one patient.

Be sure to join our email subscriber list and follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date with all the latest in the Florida medical cannabis industry! Thank you for taking the time to read; we genuinely hope you find this site beneficial to helping you as a patient.


The Unique Medicinal Benefits of Delta-8-THC

What exactly is Delta-8-THC?

These days we can ask almost anybody “What is the chemical or ingredient in cannabis that ‘gets you high’?”, and most all of them will answer simply “THC!”. While their answer is partially correct – THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, it is incomplete information from a chemical perspective; the full name of the compound they are referencing is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. While I will spare you the chemistry jargon and in-depth explanation of the significance of the “delta-9”, it is significant to us as cannabis patients. Basically, “delta” indicates that there is a double bond somewhere in the chemical compound, and the “9” indicates that that double bond is specifically located on the 9th carbon atom in the molecule. The exact location of the double bond is important to us because it is one of the major deciding factors in the chemical/medicinal properties that will ultimately be expressed.

With this knowledge, we can infer that Delta-8THC differs in the location of its double bond, placing it on the 8th carbon atom rather than the ninth, but how does that effect the medicinal benefits for us and other medical cannabis patients? Why should we care about this particular cannabinoid when there are over 400 naturally-occurring chemicals and close to 100 different cannabinoids found in marijuana?

The relevance of Delta-8-THC to cannabis patients

We’ve heard a lot of focus on the medicinal benefits of the more commonly known Delta-9-THC, and particularly in the last decade, another cannabinoid – cannabidiol (CBD). As more states begin to legalize cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes, the doors have opened for more studies on many different cannabinoids. We are just now beginning to fully understand why each cannabinoid is so unique and important; the recent focus on the medicinal properties of Delta-8-THC are a prime example of what’s possible as cannabis is normalized (as it should be).

It turns out that Delta-8-THC produces quite similar effects to its cousin Delta-9-THC, though notably less potent psychotropic effects. This is another way of saying “it doesn’t get you quite as high”, but this is an oversimplification of Delta-8.

Researchers suggest that Delta-8-THC is more effective for treating anxiety, nausea and stimulating appetite than Delta-9, and also suppresses minor pain and inflammation; Delta-8 also has been shown to be neuroprotective, meaning that it may have benefits in fighting age-related mental illnesses such as dementia.

Regarding potency, various sources claim Delta-8-THC to have anywhere from three to ten times less potent psychoactive effects than Delta-9. This seems to make Delta-8 a good choice for patients who enjoy the medicinal benefits, but may experience uncomfortable anxiety from use of “traditional” THC.

Effects

To summarize some of the medicinal benefits of Delta-8 THC:

  • More effective at alleviating nausea and stimulating appetite than Delta-9-THC.
  • Still psychoactive, but notably less than Delta-9-THC. Seems to be somewhat of a middle ground between CBD and Delta-9-THC in regards to psychoactive potency.
  • Like other cannabinoids, Delta-8 is neuroprotective, which means it has potential use in preventing and/or treating age related mental degradation.
  • Some accounts claim that the “high” from Delta-8-THC is more upbeat and productive than the high from Delta-9. 

Should I try a Delta-8-THC product?

Research on Delta-8 is currently limited as it has only recently started to get attention from researchers – largely due to the fact that it is becoming increasingly easier to research cannabis as our cannabis industry expands. However, based on everything we’ve read about Delta-8, we can generally infer the following:

  • Delta-8-THC may be a good option for patients who find that “regular” THC doesn’t treat their nausea, lack of appetite, or anxiety as well as they’d like it to.
  • Delta-8-THC may be a good middle ground for patients who benefit from the psychoactive qualities of THC (often patients looking to treat depression, ADD, etc.), but find that Delta-9 THC produces mental effects that are too intense or otherwise unenjoyable, or find that CBD is not enough to treat their mental ailments.
  • Delta-8 THC in combination with Delta-9 THC may work better than either cannabinoid alone, similar to accounts of THC and CBD working better together than alone.

We feel that any cannabis patient should consider trying Delta-8-THC as they find which cannabinoid or combination of cannabinoids works best with their individual chemistry to treat their unique ailments. As the cannabis industry in the United States continues to expand and more research is done, we will better understand how Delta-8-THC and other cannabinoids work with the human body; it is my opinion that cannabis has far more benefits than what we known even now in 2018. It truly is an exciting time for medical research in this field.

Florida Delta-8-THC Products

At the time of writing this article (12.19.2018), Trulieve is currently the only dispensary in Florida to offer Delta-8 products. I expect that will change this year as the Florida medical cannabis program expands and dispensaries have more products available. For the convenience of the reader, here the two Delta-8-THC products currently available in Florida:

Delta-8 1:1:1 Ratio TruPod (Vape cartridge) – This product contains 375 mg of concentrate that is a 1:1:1 ratio of Delta-8-THC, Delta-9-THC, and CBD. Patients have reported it has mild but nice effects.

Delta-8 1:1 TruClear Concentrate Syringe – This product is actually rolling out tomorrow (December 20). This concentrate features a 1:1 ratio of Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC, which sound like it could be a good option for patients who need a middle ground between CBD and pure Delta-9-THC.

Closing Remarks

As we continue to discover how truly unique and medicinally valuable each cannabinoid is, we will better understand exactly what cannabinoids and ratios need to be used to treat various ailments. Delta-8-THC is the next example of that expansion, and seems promising particularly in treating nausea and lack of appetite; perhaps this particular cannabinoid holds value for cancer patients looking to treat the negative side effects of chemotherapy. I look forward to trying out a Delta-8 product for myself to see how it works in treating my own ailments – when that time comes, you can bet I’ll have a review of it on this blog. In the mean time, I recommend that everyone try it out; it could very well be the “magic bullet” you’ve been looking for, particularly if CBD and THC have been “almost” working for you. Feel free to comment your own experiences with Delta-8-THC if you’ve already tried it; I would appreciate it! As always, I appreciate your time, and hope this has been helpful to at least one patient.

The 5 Florida Cannabis Companies that will lead the Industry in 2019

2018 has been a huge year for medical marijuana in Florida. Despite facing a host of legal obstructions from Rick Scott and his administration, the budding industry has soared to over 150,000 patients with active ID cards and over 200,000 patients total. Many Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs), another word for Florida cannabis companies, have significantly expanded their storefront presence this year. With incoming Governor Ron DeSantis seeming to indicate a softer approach on the herb than his predecessor, and the number of patients rapidly growing week in and week out, we expect this growth to only increase (possibly explode) in 2019. If the correct combination of factors come to play out in the next few months, we could see a program that has much more affordable medication and much greater patient accessibility than what we are currently working with in December 2018. Regardless, the program is going to grow, and that raises the question of which companies are going to lead the cannabis revolution in Florida as the medical program expands and we begin to further discuss the possibility of a recreational marijuana law passing in the next decade. We’ve been watching the current MMTC’s grow and do business in the program, and we have picked the five companies that we will be watching to lead the Florida medical marijuana industry in 2019; we based our picks on factors such as current sales, growth in 2018, business policies, to name a few. The following companies are listed in no particular order.

1.) Trulieve

There should be no surprises here. With 2017 sales around the $20 million mark and 2018 sales projected to possibly quintuple that, Trulieve has established itself as an early leader in the Florida medical marijuana industry. There’s many reasons for those high numbers, one of which goes back to the fundamentals of cannabis: Trulieve hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel with exotic product names or ratios; instead, they stuck to what most all of us are familiar with – strains. This played a large part in why I was initially attracted to Trulieve when I first became a medical marijuana patient: they were the only dispensary in my area that offered products that I was familiar with and allowed me to research them online to get an idea of what might work for various ailments before I ever set foot in the store. Trulieve expanded their product variety particularly in the second half of 2018 – rolling out products like shatter, a larger variety of flower strains, experimental cannabinoid ratios such as their Delta-8 THC 1:1:1 product, and their God’s Gift 1:1 THC/CBD distillate. They also greatly expanded their storefront presence in the state, surpassing over 20 locations well before the end of the year. But perhaps my favorite thing about Trulieve and their direction under the lead of Kim Rivers is that they have found a way to do business that balances profit with true patient advocacy. They’ve expressed their support of smokeable marijuana, of full flower sales; they’ve rejected and even filed lawsuits on unconstitutional restrictions such as limits of the amount of dispensaries an MMTC can open and the vertical integration requirement for medical marijuana sales. Though many Redditors often express their frustration at Trulieve’s lack of consistent product stock, we believe that the bulk majority of this is to be attributed to the current restrictions on the program. Trulieve has expressed that they welcome competition; they aren’t trying to become a monopoly, they are trying to be a successful business that works towards a truly great goal of benefiting (one day) millions of patients in the state of Florida. I expect Trulieve to continue to lead the industry in 2019 with further expansion of product selection, storefront locations, and potentially lower prices if the vertical integration requirements are repealed and more competition is allowed to enter the market.

2.) Altmed Florida (MUV)

MUV had a couple of bumps in the road this year with early questions about the legitimacy of the listed THC on some of its products, and the recent data breach on its website. However, MUV had more successes than it had setbacks in 2018, and we expect they will only continue and accelerate this pattern into the new year. MUV made several varieties of THC concentrates available in the late summer and afterward, releasing its shatter product soon after Trulieve; it followed not too long after with MUV Blue (crumble) and MUV Gold (terp sauce), two other types of concentrates that have received rave reviews on Reddit. If MUV develops and releases a flower product in 2019, and is also able to expand its physical locations into northern Florida and the Panhandle, Trulieve may have to seriously prepare for worthy competition from another potential big player in the Florida MMJ industry. The consensus we’ve seen on Reddit is that MUV’s concentrates, particularly their MUV Gold term sauce products, are top shelf quality and are unlike anything else currently available in the program. Patients also routinely comment on their appreciate of the packaging and labeling/style of the various MUV products, which only adds to their potential presence in the 2019 market. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on MUV and hope to see a dispensary location open near Tallahassee and/or Pensacola soon.

3.) Curaleaf Florida

Curaleaf is another MMTC that has rapidly increased their number of dispensaries in 2018, with several locations opening from the Panhandle all the way to the Miami metro area. Curaleaf is also the only other Florida cannabis company other than Trulieve that currently offers a flower product, which greatly boosts their appeal with those of us here at the Florida Medical Cannabis Collective. Curaleaf faced some harsh criticism of their flower pods early on, with Reddit users uploading images that showed grassy shake with stems and almost no buds. Though the effects of the flower were reportedly good at times, the smell/taste and appearance were often compared to “brick weed” that can be found in certain black markets. Fortunately for Curaleaf, reports from November 2018 and after are much better; patients have found the pods to contain much higher quality flower that consists more of buds than of leaves. With an early lead in the flower sales market that we expect to rapidly grow in 2019, and a large storefront presence already established throughout the state, we expect to see Curaleaf remain as one of the industry leaders. We hope to see them expand their selection of flower strains and keep more in stock – we want to review Curaleaf Flower soon!

4.) Liberty Health Sciences

A company that not too many patients had heard of at the beginning of the year, Liberty Health Sciences soon made its presence known in Florida by offering free statewide and delivery and their line of Aphria products, which have received generally positive reviews on Reddit for their good taste and desirable effects. Liberty increased their strain availability in their Aphria vape cart and distillate products and increased their overall product availability by introducing more products from the Mary’s Medicinals line (though the initial agreement was made in 2017). Aside from acquiring more products, Liberty began to quickly open dispensaries in central and south Florida as the year went by, with 8 locations open as of the time of writing this article. Their sales haven’t been too shabby either – recently reported year-to-date financials show revenue has totaled near $6.5 million USD. We expect to see further physical expansion of this company in 2019, and seriously hope that they will open a panhandle location (we prefer doing business at a physical location) so that we can enjoy all the products they will have to offer us this coming year. Another significant event for Liberty in 2018 was the signing of their agreement with PAX,a popular line of proprietary products often used for the vaporization of various forms of cannabis. With all these things considered, and rumors that Liberty is looking to introduce flower products soon, we expect to see them have much more presence in the 2019 Florida cannabis market.

5.) GrowHealthy

With cannabis-derived terpenes in most of its products, GrowHealthy has established itself as a reputable company with quality products in the Florida market during 2018. Reddit users have critically acclaimed the GrowHealthy distillate products, with Bubba Kush (Indica) being a favorite among a sizable group of patients. Having recently opened its West Palm Beach location, GrowHealthy has finally began to establish itself with a physical brick-and-mortar storefront location. As with Liberty Health Sciences, there have been talks of GrowHealthy releasing a flower product in the near future. We hope that all Florida dispensaries will be able to offer flower before the end of the year; in any event, we expect that GrowHealthy will have top-shelf flower to offer if it is able to get a product approved if the talk about the quality of its distillate is any indication of what to expect. GrowHealthy also offers statewide delivery, though delivery to locations such as cities in the Panhandle is limited to as few as two times per month. We expect to see their delivery area and frequency increase this year along with their storefront locations and product availability.

Another one worth watching:

Vidacann

Our final MMTC to make the list currently has the smallest presence of the five on this list, but are very open to the possibility that could be due to change in the next year. Vidacann has increased its number of dispensaries to 5 (mainly in central Florida) as of the time of this writing, and offers deliver to much of the state excluding the Panhandle and extreme northern Florida. Their website indicates they plan on expanding to 22 locations, though not all of those listed have an ETA for completion. We are excited that they list plenty of locations planned for the panhandle; it sounds like they are going to have a solid presence throughout the state in the next few years. The Vidacann website currently shows a respectable variety of products ranging from vape carts to concentrate syringes, tinctures, etc. – on par with the selection of most of the other dispensaries. Of our particular interest is their “concentrate jar” product line that is coming soon; we are curious as to what consistency (crumble, shatter, sauce, etc.) it will be, and what strains it and other products will be available in. Though we haven’t heard much out of Vidacann this year compared to the other MMTCs on this list, we have a gut feeling that says this will change sometime in 2019. We’ll definitely be watching them for growth.

Closing Thoughts

Depending on how a number of factors play out, 2019 has the potential to be anything ranging from significant growth to outright explosion for the Florida medical marijuana market. Regardless of which path we take, we expect these five companies to be major players in shaping the program this year. Hopefully we trend towards the “explosive” side of growth – our patients deserve it and our state needs the revenue. We will remain cautiously optimistic, but one thing is for certain: we will be here to inform you of the latest developments along the way, and we will use our voice to stand up for your right to access affordable and safe medicine. 

Trulieve TruFlower Review: 9lb Hammer (Indica)

Having tried the 600mg vape cart and Truclear versions of 9lb Hammer, I was eager to try the flower form of this strain to see what Trulieve was shooting for with their emulation of the taste and effects in the other products. 9lb Hammer turned out to be even better than expected with its potent effects and therapeutic benefits. Trulieve did a nice job of growing and preparing this batch of TruFlower, and it performed even better than my expectations. 

Quick Facts:

9lb Hammer (Indica)

Batch/Harvest Number: FFOBBULTSN000030 (that’s an “O” at the beginning and zeroes at the end)

707.0mg THC/3.5g

3.5 mg CBD/3.5g

20.2% THC

0.10% CBD

0.70% CBG

21.0% Total Cannabinoids

Appearance/Feel

These 9lb Hammer buds are a vibrant, almost bright shade of green; the buds have a velvety appearance and are covered in bright orange pistils. This batch of flower was prepared and cured (by standards of the current process of Florida medical cannabis curing) pretty well, though it was ever so slightly on the dry side of the spectrum. It was not near the same level of dryness as the recent batch of Stardawg TruFlower that I picked up. The results would have been perfect had the buds been a little less dry, as I personally desire a certain level of moisture/stickiness when preparing to vape flower products. However, the aesthetic/visual quality helps make up for this flaw.

Rating: 3.90/5.00

Smell/Taste

This batch of 9lb hammer had a pleasant and unique smell: earthy and pungent with a hint of limey citrus terpenes. The Vape Cart/Truclear products (excluding the CO2 version with natural terpenes; I haven’t yet sampled this product) do a fairly good job of emulating the taste of the actual flower. Obviously there is no way to perfectly replicate all the natural intricacies and terpene profiles of cannabis flower, especially without using cannabis terpenes to flavor the concentrate – but the taste was pretty close to the real thing in the end. 

Getting back to the smell and taste of the flower itself: it was very enjoyable in every sense. There haven’t been many strains I’ve sampled that had the particular earthy smell I noticed in this harvest of 9lb, and that added to the novelty of the experience when trying this product.

Rating: 3.90/5.00

Effects/Medical Use

This was absolutely the best part of the entire experience. The indica effects of the 9lb Hammer flower are potent and can be felt almost immediately. The first effect I noticed was a warm sensation enveloping my body, akin to wrapping up in a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer. The usual background anxiety in my mind steadily melted away until it was basically nonexistent about 20 minutes after the first pull. The classic indica couch lock set in within a half hour, so I would not recommend this strain if you have anything that needs to be accomplished; you will most likely find yourself doing something with electronics (movies, video games, browsing internet) or taking a nap when using this product (with a possible exception of micodosing; I haven’t tried that with this strain yet). High doses of 9lb will induce a heavy feeling on the body and face/eyes that often leads to sleepiness. 

9lb Hammer also did a wonderful job of relieving pain throughout my body. The first day I picked up this strain, I had a moderate sinus headache throughout the day prior to vaping the flower. This product completely knocked out that headache and also soothed minor muscular pains related to exercise and an active lifestyle. It has broad-spectrum benefits for pain, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and other related symptoms. 9lb Hammer did not particularly increase my appetite, but your mileage may vary and my own mileage may vary from day to day use; I have not yet experienced the munchies with this strain, though. 

TLDR: The effects are solid and relieved a variety of my symptoms.

Rating: 4.30/5.00

Overall Rating: 4.03/5.00

I would best describe this strain as “excellent”. 

As always, I appreciate your taking time to read this review, and genuinely hope that it benefits at least one patient.