A Tale of Two Very Different Marijuana Industries – Florida and Colorado

It’s not just the weather and thousands of miles that separate Florida from Colorado. Adding to the list of differences between the beach lover’s paradise and the skier’s dream is the marijuana industry.

Breaking Down Barriers in Colorado

Colorado has been leading the medical marijuana economy in the United States and is making news related to its recreational marijuana economy, too. This week, Denver’s city council decreased the two-year moratorium on new recreational marijuana dispensaries, grow houses, and edible manufacturers from joining the industry to just 120 days.

The Denver Post reports that the lengthy moratorium was intended to stop the recreational marijuana market from “being flooded by newcomers when retail sales began in 2014.” Fast forward to December 2015, and things have changed. The Colorado marijuana economy can be considered one of the most progressive in the country.

Two Steps Forward and One Step Back in Florida

The story in Florida is quite different. It’s not that there is a lack of demand for marijuana in the state, and it’s certainly not that there is a lack of businesses that want to supply that demand. Just last week, a Florida marijuana producer used a helicopter, a golf course, and a fast car to secure its license to participate in the Florida marijuana economy.

No, the problem in Florida can be summed up with one word—challenges.

Florida legalized medicinal marijuana in 2014, and medical marijuana products were supposed to be available for purchase on January 1, 2015. It’s December 2015, and those products aren’t ready yet. In fact, based on when the licenses were finally awarded to growers on November 23, 2015, it might take until October 3, 2016 for medical marijuana to be available in Florida.

What’s caused this lengthy delay? Challenges. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, a long list of rule challenges and challenges to license awards are to blame. Just this week, the thirteenth license challenge was filed by a producer.

James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat quoted Ron Watson, a lobbyist for healthcare and marijuana interests, who put these challenges into perspective when he said, “Two years after the law was approved, we have a baker’s dozen of challenges to deal with. Maybe if they increase the number of licenses, the challengers would focus on getting one and the process can move forward.”

The Many Forms of Challenges in the Marijuana Industry

The challenges in Florida’s marijuana industry aren’t isolated to petitioning for rule changes and investigating license awards. Ousting executives and filing lawsuits aren’t commonplace yet, but as in any rapidly growing industry, they are happening and will probably start to happen more often in the near future.

Will Florida ever catch up to Colorado’s progressive marijuana business model? That remains to be seen, but considering that bills that would allow more growers to join the marijuana industry have already been filed for Florida lawmakers to consider in 2016, there are signs that the challenges won’t be insurmountable.

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