‍MMTCs vs. Legacy Market: Why Floridians Need Medical Cannabis‍

MMTCs vs. Legacy Market: Why Floridians Need Medical Cannabis

Floridians rejoiced when the state legalized medical cannabis in 2017. The program now has over 860,000 participants purchasing from licensed medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) across the state. Yet, legacy market (aka black market) sales remain as strong as ever for reasons like cost and convenience. 

Florida patients wondering whether to apply for medical cards or stick with their local supplier should know that MMTC cannabis offers tangible advantages. And MMTCs must do their best to educate patients about those benefits, including consistent dosing and reliable quality.

This article explores MMTCs vs. black market cannabis in Florida, examining MMTC perks like lab testing, product diversity, and labeling that verifies strains, ingredients, and potency. 

How is medical cannabis different from black-market cannabis?

Medical cannabis and black market flower come from the same plant. Still, the two have distinct and essential differences regarding where people buy them, their legality, and potential quality. 

Medical Marijuana (aka Medical Cannabis)

Cannabis sativa plants containing THC above 0.3% remain illegal federally. However, states like Florida, with “medical marijuana” programs, allow it. Medical marijuana is the term for government-regulated cannabis used to ease symptoms caused by conditions such as chronic pain and PTSD. 

Floridians who seek medical cannabis must: 

  • Receiving a qualifying diagnosis from a licensed physician
  • Apply for a medical marijuana card
  • Purchase cannabis through state-licensed dispensaries, called MMTCs or Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers

Florida MMTCs are the only places where people can buy cannabis legally in the state.  MMTC products must follow lab testing, packaging, labeling standards, quality, and potency. 

Legacy-market cannabis

Legacy-market cannabis refers to cannabis grown and sold outside regulated and legal channels. The absence of rules means the quality and potency of cannabis can vary widely. While not inherently dangerous, the lack of oversight can affect product consistency. Legacyk-market consumers may also miss out on the benefits of regulated purchases, including product testing and labeling.

Why would people choose the legacy market cannabis over MMTCs in Florida?

The most significant reasons people continue to buy cannabis on the legacy market is price and access. 

  • According to the Florida MMTC website, patients can expect to pay $8 to $20 for a gram of flower, with higher grades costing more. A Florida news article reported that the street price for a similar amount might be $10 or less.

Also, obtaining and renewing medical cannabis cards can be cost-prohibitive and challenging. 

  • The initial physician’s visit to receive the qualifying condition diagnosis often costs about $250. Some lower-priced options exist; veterans at many clinics only pay $150. Still, it isn’t cheap. 
  • According to state law, patients must keep their certification active by seeing a qualified physician every 210 days (about seven months) for an evaluation. Insurance and Medicaid in Florida often don’t cover these appointments because marijuana is still federally illegal. 
  • The registration cost for a medical marijuana card in Florida is $75. Patients must renew annually within 45 days of the card's expiration for an additional $75. 

All these fees tally up to make legacy-market cannabis much less expensive and more accessible. 

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Medical cannabis advantages

The price of medical marijuana can deter patients. However, medical cannabis in Florida comes with regulatory requirements and quality advantages that help explain its higher cost. 

  • Florida MMTCs must meet strict quality guidelines, requiring steep investments in lab testing, facility maintenance, and professional-grade processing systems.
  • Dispensaries have to cover expenses for rent and employee wages. 
  • Patients receive products thoroughly tested for contaminants and potency, ensuring safety and effectiveness.
  • Medical cannabis offers a range of products tailored to specific medical conditions, providing targeted relief.

1. Lab testing

Medical marijuana offers the peace of mind that comes with stringent lab testing. Florida’s MMTC testing rules require growers and processors to track their products from “seed to sale” and adhere to specific quality standards. One of these is to pass full panel compliance testing, ensuring products are free from harmful ingredients, including:

  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals
  • Microbial contaminants, like fungus
  • Lead

2. Potency and dosing

According to the OMMU Marijuana Testing Laboratories and Testing Standards rules, medical cannabis must undergo testing for THC concentration, CBD (cannabidiol) concentration, and contaminants and label the products accordingly. Accurate labeling allows patients to dose consistently, which is essential for effectively managing symptoms without overmedication.

For example:

  • For chronic pain management, patients might opt for products with a higher THC content. According to a review of cannabis products, those with a high ratio of THC to CBD offered the most dramatic pain reduction. THC levels above 15% qualify as “high,” and strains recommended for pain often fall between 15% and 20%. 
  • Patients dealing with anxiety or depression might prefer strains with a balanced THC-to-CBD ratio, such as 1:1, where THC levels could be around 10% and CBD also at 10%. Anecdotally, people say that this balance can help mitigate anxiety symptoms while providing mood stabilization without strong psychoactive effects.
  • Individuals treating epilepsy or seizures can look for high-CBD strains with CBD-to-THC ratios as high as 50:1, where THC percentages are below 3%, which are best for seizure control
  • Patients undergoing cancer treatments may use cannabis to combat nausea and stimulate appetite. Studies show that strains with high THC-low CBD ratios (THC above 15%) contributed to greater symptom relief in a short period, often working in as little as five minutes.
  • For patients utilizing cannabis for sleep disorders, products with a high THC content of around 20% are often recommended for their sedative effects. 

Knowing product potency allows patients to titrate their dosage to achieve the desired benefits.

Product Diversity

MMTCs offer more product types than the black market, so patients can better access their preferred administration route. Black-market suppliers rarely offer tinctures. However, medical patients may prefer those products over flower or vapes to avoid lung irritation and dose more precisely. 

Medical cannabis products available at MMTCs in Florida include:

  • Smokable flower
  • Vapes
  • Concentrates
  • Tinctures and oral spray
  • Distillates
  • Topicals, such as gels, lotions, and patches


Patients buying cannabis on the black market won’t always know what strain they’re getting, let alone the terpenes they contain.  

Terpenes are highly aromatic compounds that determine each cultivar’s flavor and fragrance. They also bind with receptors and synergize with THC to contribute to the medicinal effects. There are hundreds of known terpenes in cannabis plants with varying benefits.

For instance:

  • Beta Caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Limonene can be uplifting, contributing to depression and anxiety relief.
  • Myrcene is a common terpene that helps with relaxation and euphoria. 
  • Humulene helps with appetite suppression.

Medical marijuana comes with detailed labeling and lab reports, known as Certificates of Analysis, that make it easy for consumers to know precise terpene and cannabinoid content, helping them narrow down the best strains for their wellness goals. 

Expert assistance

Licensed dispensaries provide patients with qualified staff, known as budtenders, who are well-versed in the cannabis products they sell. MMTCs must also have a licensed Medical Director to supervise employees. These experts help patients navigate the labyrinth of product types, strains, and cannabis compounds. 

Budtenders educate customers from their personal knowledge. They also utilize Certificates of Analysis (COA) to show patients precisely what each product contains and why it could help with specific medical conditions.

COAs are third-party lab reports that contain:

  • Safety test results proving the product is free from harmful contaminants
  • Cannabinoid and terpene potency information, showing precise concentrations.

The future of medical marijuana costs

Lawmakers in Florida are currently developing plans to reduce medical marijuana costs, aiming to increase accessibility.

  • An update to Florida law, effective July 1, 2023, allows medical marijuana recertification exams to be conducted by telehealth. Virtual health visits not only reduce costs but also benefit many patients who are disabled or who have trouble visiting the doctor due to their location or other health concerns.
  • Lawmakers introduced House Bill 679, a bipartisan medical marijuana bill that would reduce patient costs by requiring fewer doctor visits and extending registration renewals to every two years.

Bottom Line:

Florida's medical cannabis law passed in 2017, marking a new era for health treatment. These centers guarantee product safety and efficacy. Yet, the higher price point leads many to seek cheaper alternatives. To address affordability, Florida's lawmakers are drafting new legislation. In the meantime, MMTCs must do everything possible to market their medicinal advantages and make products inexpensive for patients. 

ACS Laboratory was the first MMTC testing facility in Florida. We test 60% of the state’s cannabis market, complying with the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and follow the strictest testing standards. Contact the team to start testing today.