A company that opened Florida’s first medical marijuana dispensary in Tallahassee is considering expanding its operations to South Florida.
Trulieve has sent inquiries to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, along with other communities across Florida, asking about zoning regulations for dispensaries, which are storefront offices where qualified patients can pick up their cannabis, CEO Kim Rivers said.
The company, which is one of six medical marijuana dispensing organizations approved to operate in Florida, is in the early stages of researching its options, she said.
“We want to be responsible corporate citizens and good community partners,” Rivers said. “We are interested in going into communities that see the benefits of the products we are offering to their citizens who are very sick.”
Rivers said Trulieve has definite plans to open a location in Miami-Dade County and is considering possible sites elsewhere in South Florida.
Patrick Rutter, director of planning and zoning for Palm Beach County, said this is the first time his office has gotten a written inquiry from a state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary. His staff is researching how zoning regulations would apply.
Trulieve opened the state’s first dispensary in Tallahassee in late July and launched a second location about a week ago in Clearwater. The dispensaries resemble a typical medical office, and patients with a valid order from an approved doctor can go there to pick up their recommended dosage of medical marijuana, Rivers said.
As for next locations, Miami-Dade, the Orlando area, Tampa, St. Petersburg and Pensacola are on the top of the list, Rivers said.
In the meantime, Trulieve is offering mail delivery to all Florida residents authorized to use the drug. Trulieve lists “preferred physicians” on its website who can order medical marijuana in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Sunny Isles Beach.
Strains of marijuana with low THC, the psychoactive compound that give users a high, are available for patients diagnosed with conditions such as epilepsy, cancer and chronic muscle spasms. These strains are noneuphoric, Rivers said.
Patients must have been seeing an authorized doctor for at least 90 days to receive an order for medical marijuana, according to the Florida Department of Health’s regulations.
Under Florida’s right-to-try law, terminally ill patients can receive full-strength marijuana, Rivers said. Those patients must have been given a diagnosis by two doctors of less than a year to live.
Florida law prohibits the drug from being smoked for medicinal purposes, but it can be administered in concentrated oils, tinctures, gel capsules and vape cartridges. Products typically cost from $15-$70, and the average patient can expect to spend about $10 a day on treatment, Rivers said. Trulieve’s marijuana is grown in Quincy, about 25 miles to the northwest of Tallahassee.
A November referendum would expand full-strength medical marijuana to patients with debilitating but not necessarily terminal illnesses if voters approve the measure.
South Florida leaders will need to decide whether to embrace the new industry or erect barriers to keep the dispensaries away. State officials expect that dispensaries could be opened in 19 cities in the next year once all six of the dispensing organizations are operating.
As of Aug. 10, only two of the six organizations – Trulieve in Gadsden County and Surterra in Hillsborough County – have been authorized to dispense marijuana statewide, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Miami-based Costa Nursery Farms, operating under the name Modern Health Concepts, has been authorized to grow medical marijuana in South Florida.
Some cities, including Delray Beach and Boca Raton, have placed moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries. Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said his community doesn’t want to complicate its efforts to battle a spike in heroin overdoses.
“We are dealing with more than our fair share of drug abuse related issues,” Glickstein said. “The jury is still very much out on how these dispensaries are working in other areas. At this time, we just don’t see a place for them in Delray.”
But other officials say they would welcome a dispensary. Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche said if regulations are enforced properly, dispensaries could help the terminally ill manage their pain without harming the community.
“The people who are using this medically are feeble,” Valeche said. “It’s hard, and they are in pain. I really, really sympathize with them. I don’t want to put any hurdles in their way if they need to get to a dispensary.”
Miami-Dade County recently established rules that prohibit dispensaries from operating within 500 feet of a residential home and 1,000 feet of a school.
A dispensary also cannot be located within one mile of an existing dispensary in Miami-Dade.
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