A Tallahassee company has closed on two vacant buildings on 14th Street West near downtown Bradenton for a potential medical marijuana dispensary.
Trulieve already has dispensaries in Tallahassee and Clearwater, with two more in the planning phases in Orlando and Miami-Dade County. Bradenton would be the company’s fifth location.
“Bradenton has been on our radar for a while now,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “We certainly think there is a need in terms of talking to physicians and the patient population in the area. I think it’s a great location, and we are excited to move this forward.”
Trulieve closed on the property early Monday, Rivers said.
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“We literally closed on it today so until we get really further down the line, I don’t have a lot of specifics other than to say we are moving forward as quickly as we can on our end,” Rivers said Monday. “The next step for us is for our architect to finish the plans and we’ll be submitting those during the permitting process. We think those buildings are great, but obviously they need some work.”
Florida’s medical marijuana issue has bounced around since 2014 when the state passed Charlotte’s Web, a law that allowed low-THC pills to be prescribed largely to those suffering from epilepsy. Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 307 on March 25, increasing the use of medical marijuana to terminally ill patients “during their final days.”
The law created new regulatory standards and paved the way for more medical marijuana dispensaries to get licensed. The 2016 bill sponsored by Republicans Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Matt Gaetz came after a legislative uproar over the lack of progress for patients qualified under Charlotte’s Web to receive their medicine.
A referendum to pass widespread medical marijuana use failed in 2015 by 2 percentage points of the required 60-percent support. The amendment returns on the ballot in November, with polls showing strong support for increasing medical marijuana use in Florida.
Rivers said Trulieve’s business plan only takes into consideration the current laws and, while she isn’t relying on a successful expansion in November, she is hopeful nonetheless.
“We are moving forward regardless,” she said. “Obviously, we are supportive of expanded conditions and believers that medical marijuana can help a variety of conditions not covered under the current law.”
Development Services and Zoning Manager Christopher Gratz said the property is zoned for retail, which includes in the description, “drug and sundry stores.”
Gratz goes on to state that, in his opinion, “The proposed use will be allowed in the zoning district in which the property is located.”
As of June, eight polls are showing support for medical marijuana in Florida, but have varied from 65 percent to 80 percent since the beginning of the year. One of the more respected pollsters, Quinnipiac University, showed 80 percent support as of May with 89 percent of millennials in support.
If successful in November, Florida would become the 26th state to legalize medical marijuana. Four states, including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state, as well as the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.
A pre-application meeting with city officials has not yet been scheduled, and Trulieves’ proposal will still need to go through the planning process.