The owners of Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana company, didn’t know exactly what to expect when it had its grand opening in Bradenton on Monday. A small line formed before the doors opened for business, but the retail store quickly filled to capacity and was standing room only as patients celebrated Florida’s expanded marijuana program.
According to the Bradenton Herald, scores of patients showed up to buy cannabis oil. One patient, Miguel Couvertier, an Air Force veteran, expressed relief that he will now be able to easily access his medicine:
“It helps a lot. We voted for this to get away from the opioids that are prescribed by doctors and the (Department of Veterans Affairs). There were no alternatives before now and now we have alternatives we know work for us.”
In November, 71.3 percent of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment expanding medical marijuana, making Florida one of 29 states that have legalized cannabis for medical consumption. But state lawmakers fought over how to enact the will of the people. In June, the state legislature ruled that the sale of flowers, buds or any other part of the plant that can be smoked would remain illegal. Only marijuana converted into oil is legal.
Trulieve is one of 17 dispensaries approved by the state. Each company approved by the state is allowed to operate no more than 25 retail stores. Trulieve already has stores in Tampa and Clearwater.
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According to Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, most of his customers are in their 60s and 70s. And many, like Couvertier, are veterans.
Couvertier told the Herald that he has been frustrated by the state’s foot dragging when it comes to cannabis legislation:
“I’m mad, to tell you the truth. The government process moves differently than what we voted for and has made things more difficult.”
The veteran says he also is angry at the legislature’s decision to ban smokeable marijuana:
“It’s disappointing because these products are more expensive than what a flower-based product would be. Leaving smokeable marijuana on the black market makes no sense. This isn’t what we voted for.”