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Medical cannabis industry focused on client growth in 2023

Right now, the biggest obstacle the local market is facing is cost structures.

  • By Brian Hartz
  • | 10:00 a.m. January 5, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Cris Rivera, Cresco Labs' Florida regional president. (Courtesy photo)
Cris Rivera, Cresco Labs' Florida regional president. (Courtesy photo)
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1. Cris Rivera, a Tampa native based in the Miami area, says Chicago-based Cresco Labs, which now operates 21 Sunnyside medical cannabis dispensaries in Florida, will prioritize adding new customers in 2023. As a slew of new players have come into the market, dispensaries have had no choice but to suppress prices — so bringing in more clients will be critical.

“It’s great for patients,” he says. “There will be a large oversupply of products in the marketplace that will allow prices to be even more favorable than they are today.”

In the year ahead, the medical cannabis industry will also strongly advocate for a 2024 general election ballot initiative in Florida in favor of legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana. Similar measures have already won the approval of voters in 21 states plus Washington, D.C., and Guam.

“You’re going to see massive dispensary growth,” across Florida Rivera says, “All of us have to be prepared for what will become one of the largest, if not the largest, legal cannabis markets in the country.”


2. With a booming population, Florida is a great place for companies like Cresco Labs to do business. The problem, though, is the customer growth rate has slowed. Rivera attributes that, in part, to “a lot of cost structures for patients before you can even come into a dispensary.”

Medical cannabis cards, for example, can cost up to $200 — discounts are sometimes available for veterans, educators, health care workers, etc. — and must be renewed every seven months for an additional fee of at least $150 after a checkup with a doctor. Also, the state has resumed the requirement of in-person doctor visits, as opposed to telemedicine, during the pandemic, when it’s time for a medical cannabis patient to renew his or her license.

“Other states allow you to go see your doctor every one to three years,” Rivera says. “So, we’ve got a couple of structural things that could be revisited to let the program be a little more patient-friendly. Those are some obstacles in the way of growth.”


3. With all forms of marijuana use still illegal at the federal level, banking and access to capital continues to be a source of frustration for Cresco Labs and its counterparts. At the time this issue went to press, U.S. Congress, in its lame-duck session, was considering the inclusion of a cannabis banking bill in an omnibus funding package.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Rivera says of the measure, dubbed the SAFE Banking Act. “It would allow us to become more normalized when it comes to capital markets, and we could weave cash between state lines and allow other companies and national banks to do business with us.”



Brian Hartz

Brian Hartz holds a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and has been a St. Petersburg resident since 2013. He has also worked for newspapers and magazines in Indiana, Canada and New Zealand.

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