In 2015, a small group of Department of Health employees including Florida’s chief medical marijuana regulator, Christian Bax, and then-surgeon general Celeste Philip hopped on a plane to Denver.
They linked up with the Colorado Department of Public Health to tour cannabis production facilities and see what a nascent marijuana industry could achieve. Edibles worthy of top-tier culinary status rolled off production lines and into packaging, sometimes sponsored by celebrities like Snoop Dogg.
These were not the pot brownies of the past.
“I’m always struck by how sophisticated these things are and how much technology goes into these facilities,” Bax told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. “I remember it was just very real, seeing those things in person, knowing that those products were going to make it to Florida. I think it’s one of the most creative products of cannabis.”
Wednesday night, four years after Florida voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana and one year after the Legislature allowed patients to smoke it, edible marijuana products were allowed to enter the market.
The Florida Department of Health, which oversees the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, quietly published emergency rules for edible medical marijuana late Wednesday night. Bax predicts variances will be issued to licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers this week and products will hit shelves soon after.
The rules, which go into effect immediately, are fairly basic for a medical marijuana state: the edibles cannot have primary or bright colors in order to minimize attraction to children, must not resemble any commercially available candy and must be packaged appropriately.
But items that have become staples in other legal states like baked goods, lozenges and chocolates are fair game.
While the rules took a few years to finalize, much of the waiting had to do with the establishment of a reliable testing infrastructure, which has been built up as the industry has grown.
Florida’s top marijuana companies have been preparing for this moment for years. They have huge production facilities statewide, and lead the nation in production to serve their nearly 400,000 patients. Under current statute, all companies that will produce or manufacture edibles will be required to obtain an annual food permit, which can cost up to $650.
In preparation for the allowance of edibles, some have already partnered with companies throughout the United States to bring them into the Florida market. Florida’s largest medical marijuana company, Trulieve, announced in 2018 that it had partnered with Binske, a high-end Colorado company that boasts its cannabis chocolate, granola bars, fruit leather, honey, olive oil and even French-inspired Pâté de Fruit candies. Liberty Health Sciences similarly announced in 2018 that it was they were partnering with Incredibles, another cannabis confectionery.
Other companies like Curaleaf, MedMen and MUV are all established in states that already have guidelines in place for edibles, so it is probably they will bring existing partners into Florida dispensaries.
Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers tweeted Tuesday night: “Like I said... year of the edibles! Let’s go!!!”