As Florida’s medical marijuana industry takes root, the state’s seven licensed pot producers have opened dispensaries from Miami to Pensacola — but not, at least so far, in Palm Beach County.
That could change in the coming weeks. Two cannabis companies plan retail locations on Dixie Highway in Lake Worth, and the county’s first dispensary could open as early as August.
Modern Health Concepts of Miami-Dade County plans a 3,000-square-foot dispensary in a recently renovated building at 1125 N. Dixie Highway in Lake Worth. Building owner Scott Berman, who’s leasing part of a larger building to the marijuana seller, said the company aims to build a lavish space that could open in the next two months.
“This is going to be the Starbucks of medical marijuana,” Berman said. “Modern Health Concepts is spending $200,000 to $300,000 to make this a state-of-the-art facility.”
Another cannabis company, Knox Medical of Miami, plans a 2,300-square-foot pot shop of its own, in a former bank branch at 1 S. Dixie Highway, just across the street from Lake Worth City Hall. That business already has received a certificate of occupancy, a city official said. A Knox Medical spokesman said the dispensary should open in August or September.
While dispensaries have opened in Orlando, the Tampa area, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Gainesville and even The Villages, no cannabis retailers have opened in Palm Beach County, in part because the county and many municipalities have passed rules temporarily barring pot shops.
Palm Beach County voters overwhelmingly favor medical marijuana. Nearly 75 percent said yes to Amendment 2, the November 2016 ballot question that expanded Florida’s medical marijuana program. The amendment’s margin of victory in Palm Beach County was the sixth-highest among the state’s 67 counties.
Yet Palm Beach County and municipalities such as Boca Raton, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach have said they won’t allow pot businesses for now, although the county has been working on an ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries that is expected to be ready this fall or sooner.
Unlike other municipalities, Lake Worth didn’t pass a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. With no ordinance in place, a new state law means the city now must accept pot shops, said city Commissioner Andy Amoroso.
“It’s a free-for-all,” Amoroso said. “We can’t say no. If no one else is allowing them to open, where else are they going to go?”
Berman, for his part, expects his tenant to be a solid corporate citizen. Berman owns Florida Window & Door, and he said the building on North Dixie Highway will house both his company’s headquarters and a medical marijuana dispensary.
The cannabis company’s presence on his rent roll complicated Berman’s efforts to land a mortgage. Marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, and several banks told Berman they couldn’t issue a loan on a property that leased space to a cannabis dispensary.
In early July, Berman closed a $2.6 million mortgage on the property through First Green Bank of Mount Dora. The bank required him to have additional equity in the building, but his loan application sailed through otherwise.
Amendment 2 makes marijuana available to people with cancer, epilepsy, HIV, post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments. Gov. Rick Scott on June 23 signed a bill that eliminated a 90-day waiting period for pot patients and removed sales taxes from cannabis transactions.
One caveat: Patients can’t buy pot in the leafy green buds most commonly associated with the drug. Instead, cannabis is delivered through vaporizers, oral drops and nasal sprays.
Cannabis companies are allowed to deliver products to customers, so Floridians still can get weed in spite of the lack of storefronts.
As pot producers vie for market share in a budding industry that eventually could serve hundreds of thousands of patients, Quincy-based Trulieve has emerged as the state’s most aggressive player. It has opened nine dispensaries statewide and plans 17 more, according to its website, but none of its locations are in Palm Beach County.