The first medical marijuana dispensary between St. Petersburg and Miami is expected to open in Bradenton next month, another sign that the industry is starting to take root in Southwest Florida, nine months after voters legalized marijuana as a treatment for various ailments.

Trulieve received approval for the dispensary before Bradenton leaders enacted a moratorium on the businesses.

Renovations to the inside of Trulieve’s property on 14th Street West just south of downtown Bradenton have been completed, a large display case and company sign have been installed inside, and Trulieve has selected a store manager for the property.

Many local governments have established moratoriums on dispensaries, limiting the industry’s visibility in its early stages.

That hasn’t stopped the 27,000 current patients from accessing the treatment. Trulieve and other companies make home deliveries for a fee.

But medical professionals and patients say they would like to see more dispensaries open for a variety of reasons, from the experience they provide to avoiding the higher cost of home delivery.

Based near Tallahassee, Trulieve is the leading player in Florida’s nascent medical marijuana industry, said Patrick DeLuca, the executive director of the Compassionate Cannabis Care Clinic in Venice.

Florida has 12 companies that are licensed to grow and sell medical marijuana — three received their license this week, including Arcadia-based Sun Bulb — and more licenses are expected to be approved soon. Sarasota-based AltMed recently announced a partnership with one of the license holders. The joint venture will begin opening dispensaries next year.

But only three of the 11 companies currently “are moving the market a little bit and Trulieve has 85 percent of market share,” DeLuca said.

The Bradenton dispensary will be Trulieve’s tenth in Florida. No other company comes close to having that many locations.

One of Trulieve’s main competitors right now is Surterra, which also delivers statewide and has dispensaries in Tampa and Tallahassee.

Surterra has been eyeing a property in North Port for a dispensary. North Port is the only city in Sarasota County that hasn’t placed a moratorium on dispensaries.

Local government leaders around the state are complaining that the Legislature preempted their ability to regulate dispensaries. State law says dispensaries must be treated like pharmacies in local zoning codes, meaning local leaders can’t adopt more restrictive zoning rules than what they have for pharmacies.

Instead, many local governments are choosing to ban all dispensaries for now.

“These local leaders really need to do some research and some soul searching and start to realize the sky’s not going to fall if they allow a dispensary or two in their city,” DeLuca said.



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Full Article: Medical marijuana dispensary close to opening in Bradenton - News - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Sarasota, FL
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