Medical marijuana Archives - Page 2 of 37 - Florida Politics

Grower asks state for edible cannabis rules

Surterra Wellness, the Atlanta-based company with medical cannabis dispensaries in Tampa and Tallahassee, on Monday asked the state to let it begin offering edible products in Florida.

Voters last year overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis, and lawmakers passed legislation in June to implement the amendment.

That bill allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and “vape” pens with a doctor’s approval, but it bans smoking.

Florida law requires the state’s Department of Health to determine “any shapes, forms” edible products can take and what other ingredients they can contain. No medical marijuana provider can offer edibles after the rule goes out.

Surterra officials say this means no Florida patient will have access to legal edible marijuana till the Department makes these rules, and they have yet to initiate that on their own. Thus, the petition to get that process moving.

The Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning.

“Many patients have been seeking edible products because it is the best format for them to find relief,” said Wesley Reynolds, president of Surterra Florida.

“Surterra Wellness has and will continue to fight for access to medical cannabis, and this is just a continuation of that cause,” he added. “The more available options for people, the more likely they will be able to use a cannabis product instead of highly addictive and easily abused opiates.”

“The department is working diligently to implement the many requirements of Article X Section 29 of the Florida Constitution and section 381.986 Florida Statutes,” says  Mara Gambineri, Communications Director with the Florida Dept. of Health. “Section 381.986 Florida Statutes directs the department to create rules related to edible marijuana products, and we fully intend on following the law. We remain committed to moving this process forward and will do so in an expedient and thoughtful manner.”

Surterra is one of seven companies licensed in Florida to sell a variety of marijuana products. The number is expected to rise to 17 later this month.

State to miss deadline for marijuana licenses

Health officials won’t be able to meet a legislatively mandated Tuesday deadline to hand out five new medical-marijuana licenses, the head of the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use said Friday.

Christian Bax, the marijuana office’s executive director, blamed the delay on Hurricane Irma and a pending challenge to a recently passed law that ordered the Department of Health to expand the number of medical marijuana licenses.

The law, passed during a June special session, was designed to carry out a November constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida. A key part of the law was increasing the number of operators in what could turn into a highly lucrative industry.

The law called for an overall increase of 10 licenses, some of which have already been awarded, by Oct. 3. It also specified that one license go to a black farmer who had been part of settled lawsuits about discrimination by the federal government against black farmers.

A lawsuit filed this month challenges the constitutionality of that part of the law, alleging that the statute is so narrowly drawn that only a handful of black farmers could qualify for the license. The lawsuit, filed by Panama City farmer Columbus Smith, contends that the measure is what is known as an unconstitutional “special law.”

In a letter to legislative leaders signed Friday, Bax wrote that his office has “worked diligently to implement” the new law, but that the issuance of five new medical marijuana licenses by Tuesday posed an “extraordinarily challenging deadline.”

In addition, response and recovery efforts related to Hurricane Irma “necessitated the mobilization of all available department assets for nearly two weeks,” Bax wrote.

Bax also blamed his office’s inability to meet the deadline on Smith’s lawsuit.

“The OMMU (Office of Medical Marijuana Use) is aware of its important role in continuing to move this process forward to provide patient access as quickly and safely as possible. However, recent history has emphasized the importance of getting the MMTC (medical marijuana treatment center) licensure process right the first time,” he wrote.

Marijuana industry insiders have long believed that the agency would not meet the deadline, but Bax’s Friday letter informing lawmakers of the delay made it official. As late as last week, a Department of Health spokeswoman said that the deadline remained “the goal.”

The evolution of the medical-marijuana industry in Florida has been fraught with legal and administrative challenges since its inception after a 2014 law legalized low-THC treatments for a limited number of patients.

Bax pointed out that 13 administrative challenges were filed after the agency issued the first medical-marijuana licenses in 2015. The agency is still in litigation over two of the challenges, he said.

The upcoming licenses will be the first time the state has opened the application process to businesses that did not participate in the first selection process in 2015, creating intense interest in what could be one of the biggest medical-marijuana markets in the nation.

Bax’s office developed a new system to evaluate the applications, relying on an outside vendor to supply “subject matter experts” to use a “blind-testing” process to grade the submissions. Requests for quotations from potential contractors were due a week ago — just seven days before Tuesday’s deadline.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who has been instrumental in the development and passage of the state’s medical marijuana laws, praised Bax’s office for the revised selection system but called the delay a letdown.

“I’m pleased with the rule that set up the process for reviewing and approving applications. It’s a much better process than the low-THC process, and I think it will produce better results,” he told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Friday. “I’m disappointed that they didn’t complete their work in a timely manner with regard to the approval of the five licenses that are subject to competitive applications. They need to finish their work by the end of the year and before session starts (in January).”

Still, Bradley said: “I’d rather have them right than do it quick.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

AGRiMED, a passionate player deserves Florida medical marijuana license

If you had any doubts about the keen interest in medical marijuana in Florida, you don’t have to look any further than how quickly demand is outpacing supply.

That’s why the Florida Department of Health is preparing to issue five additional licenses for medical marijuana businesses in early October. The people want it, and entrepreneurs are racing to get to the front of the line to meet that demand.

It’s no surprise that medical marijuana is popular — better than seven out of 10 voters approved Amendment 2 last November. State officials are now required to issue the new licenses, which will help expand treatment options for individuals suffering from various debilitating diseases.

So far, most of the operators who have sought the highly prized — and potentially quite lucrative — licenses have focused on medical marijuana as an investment opportunity. But one of the candidates for the next round caught my eye because it approaches things from a different perspective, one very much affected by its founder’s personal experience.

AGRiMED Industries is among several applicants hoping to bring its business to Florida.

While doing some research on the latest contenders, I found that AGRiMED practically lapped the field in Pennsylvania, finishing miles ahead of everyone else in that state’s license process.

The organization’s CEO, Sterling Crockett, has since relocated to Florida. He brings with him an experienced and fully integrated company of dedicated professionals. But he also brings something else — the kind of inspiration that comes with almost losing a child.

Crockett came up with the idea for AGRiMED shortly after his daughter was diagnosed with kidney cancer — three weeks after giving birth to his first grandchild. His daughter suffered through the persistent and painful symptoms associated with her disease until Crockett helped her discover the tremendous healing benefits of medical cannabis. Today, Crockett cherishes every moment he can with his daughter and now granddaughter who is entering first grade.

With that experience pushing him forward, Crockett built AGRiMED with a focus on more than just the bottom line. To him, it’s also about sharing the medicinal benefits of cannabis-derived products, to help ailing people who can’t find relief any other way. To achieve his goal, he assembled a leadership team with over 200 years of collective medical and professional experience.

And AGRiMED is different in another way, too — it is a minority-owned and operated company that works to promote the next generation of minority entrepreneurs. Crockett, an African-American, aims to empower underserved and underrepresented communities to participate in the substantial growth potential of medical marijuana. In addition to funding research into the use of cannabis-derived medicines for sickle cell anemia, his company partnered with Lincoln University to provide internships and training to students for early experience in the industry.

I’m sure there are many worthy business operators among the individuals trying to land one of the five licenses the Department of Health will award soon. But wouldn’t it be nice to think there’s room in there for a company that was born of a passion for alleviating one woman’s suffering … that serves a minority community often overlooked by economic opportunity … and that works to build the next generation of executives?

Medical marijuana provider Surterra to pitch in on Irma relief

A Tampa-based medical marijuana company said it will donate a chunk of the total sales of a new vaporizer pen to Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

Surterra Wellness is one of the largest marijuana cultivators in the blooming Sunshine State medical marijuana industry, and among its products are a series of vaporizer “pens” – devices similar in size and shape to the electronic cigarettes found in many gas stations – that deliver marijuana extracts to patients via an inhaled vapor.

Unlike run-of-the-mill vaporizers the new device, the $45 “Relief Vaporizer Pen,” never needs to be charged.

Florida’s implementation of medical marijuana does not allow the plant to be smoked, and it must instead be consumed as an oil, tincture, vapor or some other non-combustable method.

The company said without the tech in the new pen the many Florida patients who lost power due to Irma would have had to go without a way to administer their medical cannabis. The company said added that they planned to celebrate the new tech by putting a percentage of its sales toward Irma relief efforts.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we want to give some relief with Surterra’s Relief products,” Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann said. “Surterra wants to help more people every day with the highest quality cannabis, and this hurricane served as a great reminder that we must continue to strive for advancements in cannabis options so Floridians never have to go without their medical marijuana treatments.”

The company plans to donate 10 percent, or $4.50 per unit, of Relief Vaporizer Pen sales to relief efforts through the end of the month.

Surterra’s facilities took some hits during the storm, which left millions without power and caused billions of dollars in damages. After Irma cleared the Bay area, the company tweeted out that despite “minor flooding” and a “missing roof” that all the plants at its indoor grow operation were spared.

In the week since Irma, Surterra said all of its dispensaries have reopened and deliveries have resumed statewide. Medical marijuana patients can call (850) 391-5455 to place an order with the company or learn more about their product line.

Nursery challenges denial of marijuana license

A Homestead-based nursery is challenging a decision by state health officials to deny the grower a medical marijuana license.

The Florida Department of Health last month rejected a request by Keith St. Germain Nursery Farms, which sought a license under a law approved this year.

The new law, passed during a June special legislative session, ordered health officials to issue licenses to applicants who lost out to competitors during a first round of medical marijuana licensing in 2015. Under the law, health officials were required to issue licenses to applicants who had challenges pending as of January or who scored within one point of the highest-ranked applicants in five regions. St. Germain came in second in the Southeast region, scoring 1.1875 points below Costa Farms, which received a license. Health officials said St. Germain is ineligible for a license because the difference between the scores was greater than one point.

But in a petition filed Friday in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, St. Germain’s lawyer argued that the department erroneously calculated the scores by not rounding to the nearest whole number, which would have made the nursery eligible for a license.

The department’s evaluators used whole numbers to score different categories within the original applications, D. Kent Safriet, a Tallahassee lawyer representing St. Germain, wrote.

“Because the underlying data was only precise to a whole number, resulting calculations can similarly only be precise to the nearest whole number; numbers to the right of the decimal point are properly characterized as spurious,” Safriet argued. Safriet is relying in part on a decision by Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham in an unrelated challenge to a license issued in the Southwest region.

In his evaluation of the applications in that challenge, Van Laningham wrote that “numbers to the right of the decimal point are spurious digits introduced by calculations carried out to a greater precision than the original data … which were awarded in whole numbers.” Van Laningham is also the judge in the St. Germain challenge.

Health officials have until Oct. 3 to issue five additional medical marijuana licenses. Lawmakers expanded the number of licenses in response to a constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters last fall that legalized medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

More than 1,200 doctors now signed up for medical marijuana program

The number of doctors signed up to recommend medical marijuana to patients in Florida has exploded this year and now totals more than 1,220.

The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, formerly called the Office of Compassionate Use, has been authorizing an average of more than 20 doctors a week this year to assist patients seeking to use marijuana products.

That total has more than quadrupled since Florida votes approved Amendment 2 on Nov. 8 of last year. In the state’s first two years of the program, through the date of that election, just 290 doctors had taken the eight-hour state class and become authorized to approve patients for the program.

Under Amendment 2, the Department of Health is working out regulations for patients to be able to use marijuana products for a wide range of debilitating conditions, as defined by the doctors. Prior to Amendment 2, qualifying conditions were limited to epilepsy and a handful of other neurological conditions, plus cancer.

Meanwhile, the products already are widely for sale. There now are a dozen companies licensed to produce the products from marijuana in Florida, and they have been opening dispensaries one at a time throughout the state.

Data from the Office of Medical Marijuana Use shows health care practitioners authorized to recommend patients for the program now can be found in 47 counties.

By far, the most are in South Florida. The data shows 208 authorized doctors in Miami-Dade County, 118 in Broward, 116 in Palm Beach, and 15 in Monroe.

The Tampa Bay area has 98 authorized physicians in Hillsborough County and another 98 in Pinellas, 22 in Pasco County, 19 in Manatee, and 17 in Polk.

The Central Florida area has 42 such physicians in Orange County, 26 in Seminole, 23 in Lake, 23 in Volusia, 15 in Brevard, and eight in Osceola.

The Jacksonville area has 37 authorized physicians in Duval County, 12 in St. Johns, and six in Clay.

Southwest Florida authorized doctors include 36 in Lee County, 35 in Sarasota, 15 in Collier and 13 in Charlotte.

There are 15 physicians authorized to recommend marijuana-derived medicines in Leon County, and 14 in Alachua County.

Among those physicians, by far the most-common speciality is internal medicine, with more than 400 holding that specialty. At least another 243 doctors listed family medicine, while 134 listed anesthesiology. Among others, at least 77 doctors listed pain management as a specialty,  65 listed various neurology specialties, and at least 65 listed various pediatric specialities.

Most authorized doctors listed more than one speciality, and some listed highly-specialized areas that could fall into one or more of the broader categories.

 

Smoke this: John Morgan adds plaintiffs to marijuana lawsuit

Medical marijuana advocate John Morgan has added three more plaintiffs to his lawsuit against the state, filed after lawmakers refused to allow marijuana to be smoked, according to court filings accessed Wednesday.

Diana Dodson of Levy County, a cancer patient; Catherine Jordan of Manatee County, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease; and Roberto Pickering of Leon County, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; all qualify to use medicinal cannabis under a constitutional amendment passed last year.

Their names were added to the action this week. Also, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers allowed Morgan an extra 30 days to file an amended complaint in the case, first lodged in July by People United for Medical Marijuana, the political committee behind the amendment.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the smoking ban runs counter to the amendment’s language.

Lawmakers recently approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill (SB 8-A) for the amendment that does not allow medicinal marijuana to be smoked.

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the implementing bill during both the Regular Session and Special Session, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however.

“We believe that smoking causes as much harm as the benefits, particularly when we’re offering vaping, which provides all of the benefits and none of the harm,” Rodrigues has said.

“The people of Florida knew exactly what they were voting on,” Morgan told reporters after he filed the suit in Tallahassee. “(T)he vast majority, if not 100 percent, knew that smoke was included … I’m right, and 71 percent of the people of Florida know I’m right.”

Morgan, the Orlando-based attorney and entrepreneur, backed the amendment that was OK’d by 71 percent of voters last year on the statewide ballot.

The lawsuit says the legislative intent of the bill clashes with voter intent expressed in the amendment. For example, a doctor may determine that smoking marijuana gives a particular patient the best benefit of the drug, Morgan said.

By “redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of a licensed Florida physician and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” the suit says.

Moreover, since the amendment “does not require that the smoking of medical marijuana be allowed in public,” that means “that smoking medical marijuana in a private place in compliance with the provisions of the amendment is legal.”

Morgan also has cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 that “despite decades of marijuana being … smok(ed) in the United States, there have been no reported medical cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana.”

The suit names as defendants the state, the Department of Health, state Health Secretary and Surgeon General Celeste Philip, Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director Christian Bax, the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, and their respective chairs, James Orr and Anna Hayden.

Cities face ‘all or nothing’ choices on medical marijuana

Florida cities and counties are in a dilemma about pot.

State lawmakers approved regulations in June that left city and county officials with a Hobson’s choice about the sale of medical marijuana in their communities.

Local governments can either impose outright bans on medical-marijuana dispensaries or allow unlimited numbers of marijuana retail outlets, under an “all or nothing” approach approved during a special legislative session.

Dozens of cities have approved or are considering temporary moratoriums on medical-marijuana dispensaries, but it’s unknown exactly how many local governments have acted on the issue, because nobody – including state health officials – is officially keeping track.

Marijuana operators’ search for retail space has bloomed after voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in November that legalized marijuana for a broad swath of patients with debilitating medical conditions.

The scramble for retail outlets is expected to intensify as the number of marijuana operators continues to increase, and as local governments seek ways to restrain the sales of cannabis in their communities, at least for now.

As another result of the legislation approved during the June special session, state health officials recently authorized five new medical marijuana operations, on top of the seven businesses already active in the state. Five more are supposed to come online in October.

Nearly 72 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment last fall, making it difficult for local officials to close the door completely on the sale of medical cannabis.

But while saying they respect the will of voters, many local officials also want the power to regulate the number of dispensaries, and where the businesses can be sited, something that’s essentially off the table in the new state law, which requires local governments to treat medical marijuana distribution centers in the same way pharmacies are handled.

Most cities and counties don’t have special regulations regarding pharmacies, but instead treat them like other retail, or “light commercial,” businesses.

While some communities contemplate new zoning rules for pharmacies, a move that also could curb the development of marijuana dispensaries, others are focused on the cannabis retail outlets.

For example, St. Augustine Beach commissioners last week approved a moratorium barring medical-marijuana dispensaries from opening in the waterfront community.

“I think the main reason was just wanting to see how the situation is going to shake out and what sort of problems might occur with the sales of this stuff. There was no particular anxiety over it, but I think it’s a fear of the unknown,” said Jim Wilson, a lawyer who represents the city. “We’re a small community, and we’d rather see how this works elsewhere before we connect into it. It may work out fine later on.”

But Sen. Rob Bradley, who has been a key player in the creation and passage of the state’s medical-marijuana laws the past three years, said the new regulations were meant to encourage competition in the state’s burgeoning marijuana industry.

“I would encourage our local partners to see the bigger picture here. We are bringing online several new licenses over the next year-and-a-half. It’s important for the long-term future of the medical marijuana industry that we have real competition among not only the incumbents but the new license holders,” Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and former prosecutor, said in a recent interview. “If local governments were allowed at this point in time to restrict in their communities the number of dispensaries to only one or two or three, that would provide an unacceptable advantage to the incumbents.”

Regarding local officials’ fears about what are disparagingly known as “pot shops,” Bradley said he thinks they may be uninformed.

“When I see some of the comments from local officials, I’m not sure that they’ve read the details of the law. We have strict limitations on advertising and signage, and all of these dispensaries are required to have a doctor’s office feel,” he said.

The new restrictions imposed by the Legislature, paired with a push by marijuana operators to open retail facilities, create “an awkward situation for a lot of cities,” said John Wayne Smith, a lobbyist who represents numerous cities and counties as well as the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties.

While local governments are largely focused on budget issues during the summer, they may turn their attention to medical marijuana later in the year, Smith predicted.

Others may wait for the Legislature to revamp the state law.

“I would say that it’s probably half-baked and this is probably an issue that is going to evolve and get tweaked over the next five to 10 years,” Smith said.

But the passage of the state-imposed prohibition on local governments’ ability to limit the number of retail outlets poses a problem for cities like Lake Worth, which authorized two medical marijuana dispensaries before approving a moratorium aimed at preventing others from opening.

It’s unclear, however, whether the new state law will require the city to open its doors to more dispensaries, an issue on which municipal lawyers are divided.

“By doing a nothing or all, and because we already have two, this is what you’ve done to my city. Everyone around me has a moratorium, but you’ve now told my city it’s a free-for-all,” Lake Worth City Commissioner Andy Amoroso told The News Service of Florida.

Amoroso stressed that he supports legalization of recreational marijuana and endorses the use of medical marijuana for sick patients. But he also emphasized that the state law “jeopardizes what our cities look like.”

Lake Worth is surrounded by other communities that have banned the sales of medical marijuana, meaning that retailers will likely target his city, Amoroso maintained.

Lake Worth officials need “to be able to control” what their 7-square-mile city “looks like,” Amoroso said.

“If I have medical marijuana on every corner, I can’t do that,” he said.

But Orlando city attorney Kyle Shephard said he believes a moratorium recently passed by his commission will allow the city to stop any more medical-marijuana retail shops from opening.

“Every city attorney may answer this differently, depending on their own local situation,” Shepard told the News Service.

Orlando adopted its ordinance allowing up to seven medical marijuana dispensaries before the state law (SB 8-A) was passed, Shepard said. The city believes that means its ordinance won’t be affected by the new law.

“If you didn’t get your rules on the books before SB 8 went into effect at the end of June, then you are sort of hamstrung,” Shepard said.

Orange Park council members recently advanced an ordinance that would prohibit pharmacies from opening in “light” commercial areas – something that wouldn’t affect any of the drug stores currently in operation, according to Mayor Scott Land.

The town council approved the new regulation in response to the state law, which the mayor called “an all or nothing, almost.”

“So instead of doing the all, a lot of people are going to probably choose the nothing,” he said. “I think it’s going to make it difficult for the dispensaries.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

State issues more medical marijuana licenses

Two more medical-marijuana businesses have joined seven already licensed by the state, and another three are in the works, as the potentially lucrative industry continues to develop.

The Florida Department of Health this week issued licenses to Tornello Landscape, also known as “3 Boys Farm,” and Plants of Ruskin, both based in Ruskin. Licenses for Jacksonville-based Loop’s Nursery and Greenhouses, Eustis-based Treadwell Nursery and Arcadia-based Sun Bulb Nurseries are in progress, according to department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri.

The new licenses are the result of a law approved by the Legislature during a June special session to carry out a constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients with debilitating conditions. Voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment in November.

Florida lawmakers in 2014 legalized usage of non-euphoric cannabis, touching off legal and administrative battles as companies sought a limited number of licenses in five different regions of the state. The low-THC treatment approved in 2014 paved the way for the full-strength marijuana laws now on the books.

The law approved during the June special session required health officials to issue additional licenses – on top of the state’s seven current marijuana operators – and included criteria. Licenses would be issued to businesses whose applications were reviewed and scored by the Department of Health and who were denied licenses, or who had one or more administrative or judicial challenges pending as of January. The law also required health officials to issue licenses to applicants who had a ranking of within one point of the highest applicants in their regions.

The licenses issued Monday by health officials bring to nine the number of marijuana operators in the state, which could be home to as many as 500,000 patients under the constitutional amendment.

In addition to the two newly issued licenses and the three that are in progress, the new law gives health officials until Oct. 1 to issue five more licenses. The law includes a controversial element instructing health officials to give special preference for licenses to applicants that “own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses.”

Earlier this year, an administrative law judge recommended that 3 Boys Farm and Plants of Ruskin each be given licenses, after excoriating the state for relying on what Judge John Van Laningham found was a faulty system to determine which applicants should be selected.

Van Laningham in May called for the state to issue licenses to both nurseries, which had challenged health officials’ decisions regarding an initial five medical marijuana licenses granted nearly two years ago.

3 Boys Farm already produces organic herbs, vegetables and fruit, company president Robert Tornello said in a news release after receiving the state’s approval to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

“This organic product is not available from other producers,” Tornello said. “Our team members’ experience and credentials, coupled with their deep knowledge of, and passion for, cannabinoid science, will bring the proven medical benefits of this wonderful plant to those who need it most.”

Loop’s, meanwhile, lost an administrative challenge last year, after Administrative Law Judge Bruce McKibben found that the Jacksonville grower failed to prove its application was superior to its competitors in the Northeast Florida region.

Loop’s had been considered a front-runner in the contest for a license, and part of the Jacksonville nursery’s case hinged on the grower’s exclusive relationship with CWB Holdings, headed by Joel Stanley.

The Colorado-based company owns the rights to “Charlotte’s Web,” a substance whose name has become synonymous with the low-THC, high-CBD treatments believed to eliminate or drastically reduce life-threatening seizures in children with severe epilepsy.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Once a quick lube shop, now a marijuana dispensary

Arising from the shell of a former Super-Lube, Miami-based Knox Medical Thursday opened its first medical marijuana dispensary in the state’s capital.

Bruce Knox

When asked why he opened on a busy Midtown Tallahassee corner, sandwiched between two older residential neighborhoods, co-founder Bruce Knox mentioned the site’s “access and visibility.”

“This is a great location to serve the residents of Tallahassee,” he said during a media preview of the new dispensary.

Lesson one: Even in the retail medical marijuana business, it’s all about location, location, location. The store expected to open its doors for business by noon, Knox said.

Scott Klenet, the company’s PR man, later explained they get “walk-ins” at their other stores, people who ask about marijuana treatment and whether they’re eligible. “Our staff is trained to answer those kinds of questions,” he said.

Other stores are in Gainesville and Orlando, with more planned for Lake Worth, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg.

Knox’s Tallahassee store is far removed from the grease and grime of its predecessor, with an all-white exterior and wood-accented walls in the patient areas.

Mark Batievsky, the retail operations director, said they’re aiming for the “best retail customer experience.” That translates down to the staff uniforms, including identical black polos and Vans shoes.

Patients first walk into a “veranda” area, with a frosted-glass partition separating it from the “atrium.” That’s the patients-only area with display cases and cash registers.

Also on hand was Dr. J. Lucas Koberda, a Tallahassee neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. “For those who deny marijuana(‘s usefulness as a drug), it is easiest to point them to research that says otherwise,” he said. “I look at hard data.”

When medical marijuana was first OK’d by Florida lawmakers in 2014, the measure addressed only low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

Since then, state voters approved a constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis last year. Lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott also signed an implementing bill, passed during a recent Special Session. It gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Knox Medical is the retail arm of Winter Garden’s Knox Nursery, one of the first growers to be licensed under the state’s old system. The first medical cannabis store in the state, which also happens to be in Tallahassee, was opened by Trulieve.

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