Growth of the medical marijuana program in Florida from February 2018 to January 2021

Sebastian Jugl
University of Florida

Background/Objective: Medical cannabis (MC) has been accessible to Floridians for the treatment of certain debilitating medical conditions since summer 2017. This study describes trends in participation and product utilization within the Florida MC program.

Methods: In this descriptive study, we accessed the Florida Department of Health Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU) weekly reports detailed MC utilization from February 2018 until January 2021.  MC was defined as types of different MC products available in Florida, namely Medical Marijuana (MMJ), low-THC MC, and MMJ for smoking. Weekly numbers of patients with licensure to use MC, MC-authorizing physicians, and dispensed amounts of MC products were extracted. We plotted trends, ratio of patients per MC-authorized physician, dispensed MC per patient, and dispensed MC per physician.

Results: Between 2018-2021 (1,071 days), the amount of MC patients increased from 51,050 to 465,426 (9.1-fold increase), and the number of MC-authorized physicians increased from 1,035 to 2,733 (2.6-fold increase). The patients per physician ratio increased from 49 to 170 patients per physician (3.5-fold increase).

During the same period, the amount of dispensed MMJ (in THC) per week increased from 13,776 g to 148,266 g (10.8-fold increase), and dispensed low-THC MC (in CBD) per week increased from 960 g to 3,402 g (3.5-fold increase). Dispensed MC for smoking increased from 266,921 g in July 2019 to 1,470,532 g by January 2021 (5.5-fold increase).

The amount of dispensed MMJ in grams of THC per patient remained steady throughout the study period, whereas the ratio of dispensed low-THC MC in grams of CBD per patient decreased to less than half (-61%). Dispensing of THC (in grams) per licensing physician had increased 4.1 times in early 2021, when compared to February 2018.

Conclusion: Both the number of patients and amount of MC have grown steadily from 2018 to 2021 in Florida. Increases in utilization were most pronounced for MMJ, though the total amount dispensed per patient remained relatively constant, while the use of low-THC per patient decreased. MC physicians in early 2021 manage more MC patients and their licensure results in more MC dispensing, as compared to early 2018.

Co-authors: Ruba Sajdeya1, Amie Goodin1, Robert Cook1, Joshua Brown1, Almut Winterstein1
1University of Florida

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