Let’s start with some math. As of this week there are 293 dispensaries open in Florida, patronized by the 441,000 Floridians who currently possess a medical marijuana card.
That means there’s roughly one dispensary for every 1,500 patients in the state.
That may seem like a solid ratio. New Jersey has only 12 dispensaries serving 81,000 patients—that’s one dispensary for every 6,750 patients.
But unlike New Jersey, Florida is a massive state in terms of its area. A quick glance at Florida’s dispensary locations shows tight clusters in urban areas and along the coastlines. If you don’t live in those areas, you’re out of luck. There are several sprawling regions with no dispensary for more than 100 miles.
These cannabis deserts present a frustrating challenge for patients, who find themselves having to drive several hours to reach the nearest dispensary at least once a month. Florida has strict purchase limits, so it’s not possible to stock up like it’s a trip to Costco.
A three-hour round trip for meds
The state’s biggest medical marijuana desert is in north-central region of the state, centered around rural Suwannee County.
Located halfway between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, Suwannee County has a population of just under 50,000 people. The county seat of Live Oak has the densest population in the region, but the closest dispensaries are located 70 miles away in Tallahassee. That’s a 90-minute drive each way.
Live Oak residents who treat their chronic pain with opioid prescriptions can fill them at the local CVS, Walgreens, or Winn-Dixie—Live Oak has them all. But patients who flush their pills in favor of cannabis have to take nearly a full day to drive to and from the dispensary. That’s something many people with regular work schedules, young children, or disabilities simply can’t do.
Plenty of dispensaries