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Medical marijuana industry booming in Florida during COVID-19 pandemic

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TAMPA, Fla. — Since Florida confirmed its first COVID-19 cases early last month, people are getting more things delivered, from groceries to food, to mixed cocktails to go.

And more and more Floridians are having medical marijuana delivered straight to their homes

“In light of everything that’s been happening, we’ve seen at least a two-to-three fold increase in delivery,” said Vinit Patel, Operations Manager for 28 Curaleaf dispensaries in Florida.

“We saw a tremendous spike in sales actually. Probably the first week of April, last week of March, when all of this news really started to become real here in the state of Florida,” Patel said.

About 334,000 Floridians currently have medical marijuana cards.

Retired New York City bus driver Allan Love is one of them.

“I get it for back pain and it does work. I can live without it, but I don’t want to,” said Love, who started using medical marijuana about a year ago.

Love was shocked by the big crowds when he visited a dispensary recently.

“I saw people coming in and out, none of them wearing masks or gloves. No PPEs whatsoever. No social distancing that I could see,” Love said.

Medical marijuana is considered an essential business. Since Governor Ron DeSantis issued his emergency order last month, the industry has been posting record sales.

“People were stockpiling all types of things. And cannabis was one,” said Patel.

Since the first coronavirus case reported in Florida seven weeks ago, marijuana sales have jumped 30 percent.

According to state data, patients purchased more than a ton of medical marijuana at Florida dispensaries last week alone.

The number of medical marijuana card holders in Florida has also grown by nearly 30,000 people since mid-January.

That’s a rate of about 300 new patients a day.

“Without a doubt, within the last four to six weeks obviously we’ve really taken off,” said Peyton Moseley.

He is the Vice President of Development for Vidacann, which operates dispensaries throughout Florida.

Moseley says his company is keeping customers and employees safe by offering no-contact curbside service, which was approved by the state on a temporary basis last month.

“We’ve dedicated several parking spots in front of our stores where our employees will come out to your car,” Moseley said.

Moseley says his delivery drivers also limit direct contact with customers.

“The patient comes out and they just hold their state ID next to their face, and we take a photo so we can use that as a signature,” he said.

And it’s not just delivery drivers. Some doctors are keeping their distance as well.

“On March 15, the state surgeon general issued an emergency order that allowed us to start offering telehealth appointments,” said Jessica Walters of CannaMD.

Her company oversees a statewide network of Florida medical marijuana doctors. Those physicians are now allowed to do follow-up and card renewal visits remotely.

Walters says business is up everywhere.

“During a national crisis like this, you’re seeing a lot of underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety that are exasperated,” Walters said.

She says Floridians are increasingly turning to marijuana instead of traditional pharmaceuticals for those types of issues.

Allan Love says he plans to use home delivery the next time he needs marijuana. Even if the stay at home order is lifted by then.

“My wife is a very smart woman. She told me when you go there, get as many as you think you need for the next couple of months. So that’s what I did. So they won’t be seeing me for a while,” Love said. .

Curbside pick-up and telehealth appointments were approved only on a temporary basis, and will expire next month, unless the governor’s emergency order is extended.

People in the marijuana industry hope those new measures could become permanent, giving patients more options.

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