Fort Myers’ first medical marijuana shop is wedged between the Armed Services Recruiting Center and a chicken joint facing one of the city’s busiest roadways.
There’s nothing secretive or seedy about it. Nor is it flashy: The 1,500-square-foot shop at 4480 Fowler St., is marked simply with a “Curaleaf” banner denoting the name of the company that operates it.
The store held an open house this week for employees and local media.
“Our customer base is people that you would recognize as your neighbors,” said Michael Costa, Curaleaf’s director of training and dispensary support. “They have some type of condition that a physician has thought was appropriate to approve them for medical cannabis.”
This is the second such shop to open in Lee County since Floridians voted overwhelmingly in 2016 to broadly legalize the drug for people with “debilitating” illnesses. Another company, Trulieve, operates its own dispensary in North Fort Myers.
The Fort Myers City Council voted in January to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries, a moratorium that is scheduled to end July 1. But Curaleaf was able to secure approval for its shop before that measure went into effect.
Florida allows patients with serious illnesses, such as chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, to use cannabis under the guidance of state-certified doctors.
The state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use does not release information on the number of qualified patients by county.
Statewide, there are about 90,500 registered cannabis patients and 1,246 doctors qualified to recommend it. Florida has so far approved 31 retail shops, though all approved sellers may deliver the drug directly to patients.
“I have a tremendous number of patients that need this medicine,” said Dr. Clint Potter, a Naples physician who is state-approved to recommend the drug. Collier County does not allow medical cannabis shops to operate.
“The more dispensaries the better, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We have to disavow ourselves of the notion that this is some sort of gateway drug or some sort of illicit operation. It is anything but.”
At Curaleaf’s store in Fort Myers, all customers must check in with an attendant at the entrance and prove they are qualified to buy medical cannabis before they are allowed into the section of the shop.
Once inside they can speak to dispensary employees about available products, which include cannabis drops, oils, patches and solutions used in vaporizer pens. Private consultation rooms are available.
The store is open Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., and Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Patients can call 239-244-9629 for more information.