ORLANDO SENTINEL |SEP 21, 2020 AT 11:17 AM
Nearly four years after Floridians voted to legalize medical marijuana, chocolates, cookies and gummy-like gels containing the drug are just becoming available at dispensaries in the state.
Trulieve is carrying chocolate bars and fudge brownies. Curaleaf is working to bring gel edibles to its Florida dispensaries in October, with possible flavors such as grapefruit or lime.
The offerings arrive after the state Department of Health released rules for edibles in late August.
Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, and lawmakers passed a law that included edibles in 2017, but state officials have taken until now to fully carry out those changes and allow edibles.
Dispensaries like Curaleaf are working to get those products out to the hundreds of thousands of patients seeking help for conditions such as cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses.
“We take great care in testing our product,” said Yesenia Garcia, director of marketing for Curaleaf. “We didn’t necessarily feel the need to rush it just for the sake of getting out to market.”
Florida-based Trulieve, with the most dispensaries in the state at 58, said edibles have launched in all of its Florida locations.
The offerings include milk and dark chocolate “TruChocolate Bars," fruit-flavored “TruGels,” as well as chocolate chip cookies and fudge brownies from partner brand Love’s Oven.
Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said in a news release it was important to add “non-inhalation options" that taste good and are easy for patients to take.
“Immediately after initial approvals came in, we focused on ramping up production to ensure consistent statewide distribution," Rivers said. "We’re excited to be expanding access to the types of medications patients have available to them and look forward to broadening our product line over the next few months.”
The number of people in Florida using medical marijuana continues to grow by the thousands each week.
As of Sept. 11, there were more than 411,000 qualified patients in the state, according to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, a figure that has jumped more than 37% from about 299,000 around the start of the year.
Allowing edibles to be sold opens the program to more patients who might not have been comfortable or preferred not to smoke, Curaleaf’s Garcia said.
“You have to find medicine that is something that you feel good about and that fits your lifestyle and your needs,” Garcia said.
What those edibles can look and even taste like are determined by rules from the Department of Health, which cover what shape they can be and also say the edibles can’t be decorated with icing, sprinkles or toppings.
Edibles also aren’t allowed to “contain or bear a reasonable resemblance to commercially available candy,” according to the state’s order.
“Edibles shall be produced in a manner to minimize color intensity and other color and visual characteristics attractive to children,” the order said.
Garcia said Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, which is third in Florida with 31 locations and two more on the way, has the ability to offer a decent variety of edibles, adding that the state’s rules are about being mindful of what attracts children.
The company with the second most dispensaries in Florida, Surterra Wellness, will also roll out edible products. Surterra, headquartered in Atlanta, has changed its corporate name to Parallel and has 39 Florida dispensaries.
“We will be introducing a variety of new and innovative products throughout the remainder of 2020 and beyond with a focus on variety and taste and we will be supplying consistent inventory to meet demand," Liz Conway, Parallel’s Florida president said in an email.
Conway also noted the importance of edibles.
“Edibles are an important format for medical cannabis patients that not only provide a discreet way to medicate but also a longer-lasting effect,” Conway said.
In addition to Trulieve, Curaleaf and Surterra, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which issues food permits to make edibles, has also approved a Florida-based company called VidaCann, according to a News Service of Florida story in August.
VidaCann is releasing its gourmet chocolates and soft chews at its dispensaries this fall, according to a news release. The company, which has 14 locations, also wants to add other products, including baked goods and drink powders.
Article original source: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-bz-medical-marijuana-edibles-florida-20200921-q5j6pvt5dnggph6z5ars7evdxm-story.html