Florida’s legal cannabis program has gained plenty of investor attention as the potential for this segment of the US cannabis market continues to expand.
The US cannabis industry is largely fragmented because the plant remains illegal at the federal level. Despite that obstacle, several states across the country have implemented medical and recreational cannabis legislation allowing for cultivation, processing, commercial sale and consumer use.
While this legislation differs greatly from state to state, one state’s medical cannabis industry has seen unprecedented growth: Florida.
The coastal state’s journey to cannabis legalization has been a challenging one. In 2016, over 70 percent of Floridians voted for a constitutional amendment to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
However, in the 2017 legislation that created the state’s legal medical cannabis framework, then-Governor Rick Scott banned smoking medical cannabis. It wasn’t until March 2019 that Ron DeSantis, the current governor of Florida, lifted the ban on smokable marijuana.
In the face of those challenges, the Sunshine State has developed one of the most attractive medical cannabis markets in the country. In fact, Florida’s medical marijuana space is one of the fastest growing in the country.
Read on to learn more about the investing opportunities in Florida’s legal cannabis space and the top marijuana stocks to look out for.
Florida medical cannabis: High-growth market
Florida’s large population — the third biggest in the US — is a factor in the attractiveness of its cannabis market. The state is also the fourth largest economy in the US with a gross domestic product of just over US$1 billion in 2020.
A 2020 report from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics shows the US legal cannabis industry is expected to grow by 18.2 percent between 2019 and 2025 to reach US$33.9 billion. Florida ranks among the jurisdictions that will contribute the most to that growth.
“The Total Available Market, or TAM, is one of the most critical factors for any industry,” states Dustin Robinson, founding partner of Mr. Cannabis Law, in an article written for Green Entrepreneur. “Florida’s marijuana industry happens to have one of the strongest TAMs in the world.”
As of a June 2021 update from Florida Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), the state had 569,450 qualified medical marijuana patients and 2,542 qualified physicians.
Florida’s patient count is a small percentage of its population of 21 million, but it has been steadily growing since the drug was legalized in the state in 2016. In fact, the patient figure has more than doubled in the past two years.
According to Robinson, there are almost 300 retail locations in Florida, with another 500 locations expected by the end of 2022.
Beacon Securities analyst Russell Stanley has said Florida boasts a healthy list of addressable medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis, unlike the medical marijuana programs in other states.
“Some other states have had trouble expanding their programs, in part because it’s been very difficult for patients to get access to product,” Stanley told the Investing News Network. “Other states have had restrictions on which healthcare practitioners can recommend it and what they can recommend it for.”
Florida cannabis market: High barriers to entry
The 2017 Florida medical marijuana law established a cap on the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and required that each center be vertically integrated — they all had to manage their own operations, from cannabis cultivation and processing to distribution and sales.
The cap on the number of dispensaries expired in April 2020. While the vertical integration requirement portion of the law underwent a three year court battle, the Supreme Court of Florida recently upheld the legislation, meaning this requirement will continue to shape the Florida cannabis market for years to come.
During a panel discussion, Steve Hawkins, CEO of Horizons ETFs Management (Canada), said he views vertical integration as one of the key benefits for US companies compared to the Canadian cannabis market. Only players that have been able to develop cannabis production, manufacturing and distribution capabilities can compete in the marketplace.
As of March 2021, the state had 22 licensed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) and five laboratories licensed for third party testing. The low number of licenses currently awarded creates high entry barriers, which is a big plus for the currently operating companies that have already established a strong foothold in the market.
Robinson believes that “the 22 Licensees are in a great position to build multi-billion-dollar companies in Florida’s growing marijuana industry.”
These 22 established licensees will also have an advantage if and when recreational cannabis becomes legal in the state. “In Florida, the medical marijuana license allows the current MMTCs to build out as big of a footprint as possible in preparation for adult use (recreational) legalization,” he said.
Florida cannabis market: Top Florida cannabis stocks
As the legal cannabis industry grows in Florida, some players have begun to stand out in the state.
Trulieve opened Florida’s first medical marijuana dispensary back in 2016, and since then it’s grown into a force in the industry, with a current market capitalization of US$5.52 billion.
As of June 4, 2021, Trulieve had 82 dispensing locations in the state, according to data released by the OMMU. In one week’s time it sold more than 76.5 million milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products and 1.6 million milligrams of cannabidiol (CBD) products, in addition to 32,295 ounces of dried flower.
Shortly after smokable marijuana was legalized, Trulieve began selling flower and was the first in the state to do so. Trulieve has also benefited from a vertically integrated structure that includes cannabis cultivation, production and distribution, which is essential since cannabis cannot be moved across states lines just yet.
Surterra Wellness comes in at a distant second place with 39 dispensing locations and sales of over 22.2 million milligrams of THC products and 1.6 million milligrams of CBD products, in addition to 6,911 ounces of dried flower. Surterra is owned by Parallel, one of the largest privately held multi-state cannabis operators (MSOs) in the country.
Another big player in the state is Massachusetts-based Curaleaf Holdings (CSE:CURA,OTCQX:CURLF). Though not native to Florida, Curaleaf’s presence in the state’s cannabis business is substantial. Of the MSO’s total 101 dispensaries, 37 are in Florida, putting it in third place behind Trulieve and Surterra.
Curaleaf put up impressive revenue numbers for 2020, reporting retail revenue of US$423.2 million compared to US$138.7 million in 2019. The company attributed the 205 percent increase to new store openings in its operating states, including five opened in Florida in 2020.
Liberty Health Sciences, which was acquired by Ayr Wellness (CSE:AYR.A,OTCQX:AYRWF) in February 2021 in all-stock transaction, also has a considerable stake in Florida. According to the OMMU, Liberty currently has 36 dispensing locations in the state.
Ayr Wellness plans to increase that footprint to 42 dispensaries by the end of 2021, and has a target of roughly US$4 million in annual retail revenues per store for 2022. In May 2021, the company announced the launch of its Origyn premium concentrate line in the state. The product line includes wax, crumble, Rick Simpson oil and shatter. Ayr has also begun construction of a 10 acre outdoor cultivation expected to be completed in Q3 2021.
Florida cannabis market: Investor takeaway
As its medical marijuana industry continues to grow, Florida has a lot to offer in terms of investment opportunities. BDS Analytics projects that Florida’s medical cannabis market will hit US$1.5 billion in sales in 2021, up 53 percent over 2020 sales.
The research firms predicts that recreational cannabis could be legal by 2023, which would set Florida on a path to become the third largest US legal cannabis market by 2026. Regardless of whether adult use gets the green light that soon, investors should still consider the Sunshine State as a premier cannabis jurisdiction.
Want more details? Check out these articles for more INNdepth coverage:
- US Cannabis Stocks
- States to Follow for US Cannabis Investments
- Expert Panelists Say Now is the Time to Invest in US Cannabis
Want an overview of investing in cannabis stocks? Check out Investing in the Cannabis Industry.
This is an updated version of an article originally published by the Investing News Network in 2019.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.