FLORIDA FIGHT FOR CANNABIS EDIBLES, REVISTED— 2nd PART IN SET

Author: Heather Allman

[Continued from Elusive Edibles For Florida]

Now that we’ve discussed Florida’s quest for the elusive cannabis edible product, let’s look more closely at the edibles issue. 

What types of products close to edibles have Florida medical cannabis patients had in the meantime while impatiently waiting for actual cannabis edibles —or the edible-adjacent products available now?

First place in the edible-adjacent market was awarded to Olive Oil Tinctures Skirt Florida’s Edibles Ban as reported by Kristine Gill for Miami New Times on January 20, 2020:

“Commercial edibles are still illegal in Florida, which means most medical marijuana patients use a different delivery method to get relief. But tinctures have long been an approved method in the Sunshine State.

Now the Colorado-based marijuana company Binske is rolling out a line of flavored tinctures for Florida patients looking to get their dose through food. The olive oil tinctures, available at Trulieve dispensaries, can be used on everything from salads and pastas to dishes served at restaurants.”

Binske Flavored Cannabis Tincture Oil sold at Trulieve in Florida.

Although edibles are still illegal, Binske prepared for the Florida ban, as witnessed in this recent announcement by Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture: Medical Marijuana Treatment Center Edibles Food Establishment Permit:

The MMTC edibles food permit is for medical marijuana edibles produced at a medical marijuana treatment center licensed by the Florida Department of Health.

Pursuant to Section 381.986, Florida Statutes (F.S.), FDACS is authorized to issue food permits to medical marijuana treatment centers to manufacture and produce edibles.

Edibles are defined by Florida law as commercially produced food items made with marijuana oil, but no other form of marijuana, that are produced and dispensed by a medical marijuana treatment center.

In second place, Florida medical cannabis patients have had availability of “tablets” —essentially 5mg cannabis mints from Curaleaf dispensaries. They aren’t considered edibles but are capsules. What does Curaleaf offer Florida Patients in the Florida edible-adjacent market?

Hybrid THC Tablets sold by Curaleaf in Florida.

According to the Curaleaf corporate website,Our mission is to produce pharmaceutical-grade, standardized-dose medical cannabis to improve your health and well-being. We are known for high-quality, reliable and effective medical cannabis products which are available in a variety of strains and preparations.”

Where do you obtain these edible-adjacent cannabis products while waiting for Florida to release true edibles?

For me, I placed a free delivery order in January 2020 from Store #26 – Curaleaf Tallahassee located nearly three hours away from my home in Pensacola. Curaleaf was the only dispensary offering an edible type product, so they drove my order from 1345 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32303-5667.

This elusive cannabis item was difficult to locate on their website because technically, no “edible” delivery method exists on any Florida patient registry profile. Finally located under Capsules at Curaleaf, where they assure patients:

Curaleaf THC and CBD capsules offer patients a convenient and safe way to take their daily dose of cannabinoids. Capsules provide a steadier dosage and better control of medication. Products are formulated and tested to ensure consistency and quality. Our gelatin capsules are made with natural cannabis oil and microcrystalline cellulose.

Oral administration is one of the strongest delivery methods. Ingested cannabis is metabolized in the liver and provides the benefit of a long-lasting effect.

Available for online ordering under “THC-Hybrid at Curaleaf,” I finally discover them: THC Tablet-Hybrid —5mg THC-30 Count-150mg THC Total, $35. 

To be clear, these are not edibles. They are mint flavored Micro-Tablets, at 5mg THC per mint, “the micro-dose mint allows reliable, consistent dosing with the added benefit of discreet use.” I’ll try every product at least once and then continue with the cannabis products that are the most effective for my body. Since edibles are unavailable and this product is pretty close, I bite the bullet and buy some. 

On March 19, 2020, I awaken to an announcement email from Trulieve about a “New Product Alert.” Florida is finally one more step closer to having edible cannabis products on the shelves for sale. 

In third place, but still not true edibles, the TruTincture Drops are an even larger, higher THC dosage of effective medicine than the tablets from Curaleaf. They come in an oral lozenge, similar to a cough drop. I’m on board and go about ordering some for pickup the next day. 

TruTincture Oral Drops sold by Trulieve in Florida.

Right on the Trulieve homepage, I discover the newly released item: THC TruTincture Drops —10mg THC-10 Count-200mg THC Total, $20.00. For clarity, these are also not true edibles, instead:

Trulieve’s TruTincture Drops are similar in texture, size, and appearance to lozenges and were developed using the same TruNanoTechnology (TruNano) as the TruNano Tinctures. For patients who may struggle with titration or the flavor of the tinctures, these solid Drops are a viable alternative.

Named for its nano-sized particles, the Drops offer the best delivery system for a nano-based product, resulting in an increased resonance time. We strongly recommend treating this product similarly to a lozenge to ensure maximum absorption; hold in the mouth, agitating or “swishing” the product around, and do not chew or swallow. The Drop should dissolve within 15 minutes and take effect within the hour.

What are the three main FAQs about this tincture drop oral lozenge that a prospective Florida patient purchaser would be interested in?

Question 1: Is this product an edible? When will edibles be available?

Answer 1: “Edibles are not currently approved by the Florida Department of Health, though we are eagerly awaiting rules and guidelines. This product is similar to a lozenge or ‘cough drop,’ and is therefore not meant to be eaten.”

Question 2: Can you treat this product like an edible? / What happens if I accidentally eat it instead of letting it dissolve? Will it still work?

Answer 2: “We do not recommend treating this product as an edible. The TruTincture Drops are similar to a tincture and should be taken sublingually for maximum absorption and increased resonance. If the Drops are accidentally eaten, they will still offer relief, though at a much more reduced rate.

Question 3: Is this product stable? What is the shelf life? (Could prove to be a long quarantine road ahead for the U.S., so it never hurts to ask.)

Answer 3: “The Trulieve TruTincture Drops are stable, though we recommend patients do not keep for longer than a year. Though not required, it is recommended to be kept in a cool or refrigerated space. As long as the product is not stored in a hot car or a space above 150° F for several hours or days, it will remain in a stable condition.”

So here Floridians sit in the meantime, with our three measly edible-adjacent products mentioned throughout. Trying to be happy with the products available for oral consumption, Florida patients are watching for the state to release final rules for edibles production so that sales to patients can begin.

Florida is well past the state’s promised emergency rule-making for edibles in 2017. Finally, there’s a glimmer of hope as Florida Releases Rules For THC-infused Cannabis Edibles, illuminated by Gary Stein on March 4, 2020:

Nearly three years in the making, the State of Florida finally released the rules for cannabis edibles infused with THC. All MMTC’s in the state will be held to these standards should they want to produce and sell medical cannabis in the form of edibles. In the meantime you can access the rules directly on flrules.org.

In November of 2016, Florida voters approved a ballot initiative that legalized medicinal cannabis for debilitating conditions. It took the entire 2017 session and a week of special session to write an implementing bill, SB8A.

In July of 2017, MMTC Surterra had filed for a variance to allow them to produce and sell edibles. That variance request did not get a response.

A MISSED DEADLINE FOR ISSUING EDIBLE RULES:

The amendment language gave the Department of Health nine months to write the rules. Six months after that deadline, and one year after the legislature wrote the implementing bill, in March of 2018, the -rule writing process had yet to be begun, so the legislature threatened to cut funding to the DOH if they did not comply with the deadlines delineated in the ballot initiative and the implementing bill.

On March 28 of 2018, the beginning of the rulemaking development process for edibles was announced.

But it wasn’t until January of 2019 before the first public workshop was held, and the draft of the rules was submitted for approval in March of 2019. But the process stalled again at that point.  Changes were submitted for Definitions, Permits and Fees, Inspection and Reinspection, Permitting Requirements, and Guidelines for Imposing Administrative Penalties.

2 ½ YEARS LATER; 24 MONTHS BEYOND DEADLINE:

The final form of the rules was finally submitted to the Florida Administrative Code on March 3 of 2020, with an effective date of March 16. Finally, 2 ½ years after the initial deadline and 2 years after the process began, the Medical Cannabis Edibles rules finally posted in the Florida Administrative Code and a highly anticipated market is about to open.

During that time, several celebrated Edibles companies from across the country, like Wana, Incredibles, Binske, 1906 and others, set up licensing agreements with the existing MMTC’s in Florida, and now, they finally have the chance to produce and sell their products here.

As a Florida medical cannabis patient —along with the majority of our 327,692 other registered patients as of March 20, 2020— I am anxiously anticipating the release of true cannabis edibles in the state sooner rather than later. The wait has been a lengthy one and edibles as a delivery method or route are long overdue. 

Florida’s Department of Health and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, known as the OMMU, must do their compassionate care duty, formulate workable edibles rules for production.

Edible cannabis products must be offered for sale to patients in Florida by state-licensed dispensaries sooner rather than later. The time for edibles is now.