Once home to a Waffle House, a new business is emerging on Boynton Beach Boulevard that’s part of the growing medical marijuana industry in Palm Beach County and the state.
Called the Florida Medical Marijuana Health Center, two Boca Raton doctors specializing in medical marijuana will evaluate potential patients interested in using the medicine and will decide whether to recommend it.
The center is not to be confused with marijuana dispensaries, only one of which has been approved to open in the county. The center will not dispense marijuana.
“We are a health center specializing in helping people get their medical marijuana cards from the state of Florida,” said Robert Fronrath of Lake Worth, 52, who runs the center. Fronrath is a former used car salesman whose father Gary Fronrath was a well-known longtime auto dealer in South Florida, with dealerships in Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
The business at 700 W. Boynton Beach Blvd. will open Oct. 23.
The two doctors — Thomas Gionis and Nia Smyrniotis — are among about 130 in Palm Beach County and about 1,000 statewide who have passed a course allowing them to make those recommendations to the state, according to the Florida Department of Health.
It’s unclear how many doctors have started making those recommendations because the state doesn’t keep track, said communications director Mara Gambineri. Some doctors, like Joan Baijnath in Palm Beach Gardens, have already started. She’s seen medical marijuana patients for months now, and averages about 15 weekly, said her office manager Janet Herrera. West of Delray Beach, Vernon Rebello and Brian Rebello are certified, but haven’t started making recommendations. They expect to soon, but only with existing patients, said Mandy Burgess, a medical assistant.
Doctors typically charge $200 for the initial consultation.
Where the doctors are
Statewide, Palm Beach County is second to only Miami-Dade in having the most doctors who can recommend the medication. Once patients are given the approval, they receive a medical marijuana card and can either pick the medicine up at a dispensary or get it delivered from a dispensary.
Since medical marijuana became legal in Florida, the state has approved only one dispensary to open in the county: Knox Medical is expected to open soon at 1 S. Dixie Highway in Lake Worth. Modern Health Concepts dispensary is also expected to open on Dixie Highway, but has not been approved by the state yet, records show.
Lake Worth and Boynton Beach are among a small number of cities in the county that have welcomed dispensaries. There are no immediate plans to have one open in Boynton.
The Boynton building is owned by Christiane Francois through Hidden Brook Corporation, which bought the site in July for $620,000, according to county property records. The business is run by both Fronrath and Francois, according to state business records.
The building is currently being used as storage for a garage sale type of event.
The way the center works is this: A potential patient would come into the office and see one of the doctors for an exam. If the doctor recommends the person use medical marijuana, they’d go over dosage and ways to use it. The center would then send the patient’s information to the state, which then decides whether to issue a medical marijuana card.
Francois, who was unable to be reached Monday, and Fronrath got into the medical marijuana business after she bought the property, Fronrath said. The two are friends and she also used to be Fronrath’s landlord for a used car lot. Fronrath said she had interest in the field and wanted to get into business with him.
Fronrath said in addition to helping patients deal with cancer and Crohn’s disease, medical marijuana can help people with chronic pain and back pain. He hopes more people will learn the benefits of the medicine, and thinks it could help tackle the opioid crisis. He says that in other states, medical marijuana provides alternative treatments to help pain and says that, under a doctor’s care, using it can help wean people off their opioid addictions.
Fronrath, whose cousin Todd Fronrath is an attorney with the West Palm Beach-based law firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, said he joined the industry because he believes in marijuana as a medicine and because of how fast the industry is growing.
“I believe I can help more people in one day than I’ve ever helped selling cars,” he said.
Staff researcher Melanie Mena, data reporter Mike Stucka and reporter Jeff Ostrowski contributed to this story.