Previously, only patients with "cancer or a physical medical condition that chronically produces seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms" qualified for medical marijuana and only in low-THC doses. Amendment 2, the 2016 ballot measure later passed into law as S.B. 8, expanded access to include ailments such as Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and "chronic nonmalignant pain," which is defined as pain that is either caused by or originates from a "qualifying medical condition." Qualifying patients are entered into a state registry and issued I.D. cards.
This week, Green Thumb Industries, a Chicago-based manufacturer of packaged cannabis products, announced a joint agreement with Circle K convenience stores. By the end of the year, Green Thumb will build a 28-acre cultivation facility in Ocala, Florida. Then, starting in 2023, it will lease space in some Circle K stores to build its "RISE Express" dispensaries.
A Circle K spokesman clarified to CBS News that the dispensaries will be distinct from its convenience stores: "To be clear, Circle K is not selling cannabis in its U.S. stores." The dispensaries will operate out of separate storefronts with separate entrances.
The rollout is modest: Out of more than 600 Circle K stores in Florida, only 10 will see dispensaries. Green Thumb referred to it as the "test and learn phase of the rollout," implying that more locations could be forthcoming if the first 10 prove successful. In the meantime, relatively few of Florida's more than 750,000 medical marijuana cardholders will have access.
But despite the small initial numbers, the announcement is a promising one: While making it easier to purchase marijuana will be good for the patients who need it, greater access is a good step overall in ending the drug war. The more people are able to purchase marijuana from a credible source like a retail establishment, rather than illegally on the black market, the fewer people risk being sent to jail or consuming a contaminated product.
While Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has not taken a firm stance for or against legalization, he told reporters that "it smells so putrid… I don't want to see that here. I want people to be able to breathe freely."
No matter DeSantis' olfactory preferences, Floridians overwhelmingly support the recreational legalization of marijuana; a poll earlier this year found that 76 percent of Floridians support full legalization.