Is Cannabis Legal in Florida?
“Florida Man Opens Legal Recreational Marijuana Dispensary” is not a headline you’re likely to see any time in the near future. And “Florida Man Opens Medical Marijuana Dispensary,” though more likely, isn’t really likely at all any time soon— though it could happen in late 2023.
Yes, of all the likely “Florida Man” memes you’ll see in 2023, opening a Florida cannabis retail operation probably won’t be in the mix.
The reason why is pretty simple: Florida, which has a booming, legal medical cannabis market, has been especially stingy with its licenses. As of January 2023, just like January 2022, there are only 22 licensed operators in the state of 22 million — and those 22 operators run all of the nearly 500 medical cannabis dispensaries in the Sunshine State.
Florida voters approved Amendment 2 in November 2016, establishing a medical marijuana market in the state. Large, well-funded players immediately moved in. A medical marijuana license, for which the state currently charges $60,000, was going for well over $50 million in the resale market, according to recent anecdotal reports.
Trulieve, an 80-year-old horticultural company headquartered in Quincy, Florida, pushed the pedal to the metal and began opening up stores, followed by a slew of multistate operators. Today, of the approximately 475 medical cannabis retail stores in Florida, Trulieve owns and operates 120 — more than a quarter of the entire market.
And of the top 10 cannabis operators in Florida, only five are headquartered in the Sunshine State. Big names like Cresco and Green Thumb Industries (Chicago) own stores with names like “Sunnyside.” Nearly all of the 28 top-selling medical marijuana Florida facilities are owned by out-of-state, deep-pocketed MSOs. And the Florida-based companies are often MSOs themselves, operating dispensaries in several U.S. states.
Unlike other legal cannabis states, Florida has not decriminalized the plant and home grows are currently illegal. There is an effort to gather signatures for another citizen-led adult-use legalization ballot effort in 2024.
Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in Florida?
Florida cannabis advertising rules are especially strict on how and where brands can reach customers.
A medical marijuana treatment center (the official name for a medical cannabis retail store) simply cannot advertise in a way “that is visible to members of the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place.”
The exception to this particular rule is that a Florida medical marijuana dispensary is permitted to attach or hang a sign on its storefront telling the public what it is so long as it doesn’t “contain wording or images commonly associated with marketing targeted toward children or which promote recreational use of marijuana.”
Medical dispensaries are permitted to advertise or market on the internet, but the ad must be approved by the Florida Department of Health. All of the typical rules apply: No ads targeting youth, no ads with cartoon characters, no unsolicited advertising and opting out must be “easy and permanent.”
Additionally, every dispensary website must list “each marijuana and low-THC product available for purchase, including the form, strain of marijuana from which it was extracted, cannabidiol content, tetrahydrocannabinol content, dose unit, total number of doses available, and the ratio of cannabidiol to tetrahydrocannabinol for each product.”
It must also include “the price for a 30-day, 50-day, and 70-day supply at a standard dose for each marijuana and low-THC product available for purchase,” the price of delivery and any discounts and eligibility for said discounts.
How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in Florida
Florida cannabis companies have a long list of off-limits advertising channels, but brands appear to be free to make use of their owned media and content marketing channels such as blogs, websites, white papers and newsletters or opt-in programs like text message lists.
Dispensary Marketing in Florida
In a saturated (and some would argue near-monopolized) market like Florida’s, options for dispensary marketing are limited, especially with the Sunshine State’s strong rules surrounding advertising. Still, more retailers are turning to dispensary marketing to reach new customers and solidify their brand recognition. And in such a saturated market, that’s no walk on the beach.
In the end, while dispensaries are limited in some of the marketing strategies other brick-and-mortar businesses might deploy, one thing that cannabis brands can take advantage of is event marketing throughout the year. No month is bigger for promotions, however, than April as dispensaries jockey for position ahead of 4/20, one of the biggest days of the year for cannabis marketing and retail.
Cannabis Brand Marketing in Florida
How are Florida cannabis brands distinguishing themselves? By sheer size, for one. Florida cannabis, like the Sunshine State’s famous themepark scene, is dominated by big companies with familiar names. With a medical-only market, vertical-integration requirements and just 22 licenses issued across the state, Florida’s cannabis scene is dominated by giant MSOs. That hasn’t left much room for brand differentiation based on, say, local ties or a BIPOC founder. Instead, MSOs are marketing to Florida’s older demographics based on medical appeals, products tailored to women’s unique needs, or the occasional partnership with Jimmy Buffet. Some brands like Fluent, however, have developed vape cart varietals dialed into Florida’s unique steeze, with strains like Everglade Haze, Kingdom Dreams, and Miami Vibes.
Top 10 Cannabis Brands in Florida
From the Panhandle to Miami, here are the top cannabis brands in Florida.