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.
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.
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:
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.
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.