Green Thumb Industries announced today it will begin selling medical marijuana at certain Circle K gas stations and convenience stores in Florida starting next year. But the pilot program is limited to just 10 of the 600 Circle K locations in the state. The locations of what the company calls a “test and learn” approach have not yet been announced.
Palm Coast, Flagler Beach and Bunnell have more than a half dozen Circle Ks, with several along Palm Coast Parkway and State Road 100.
The parkways and SR100 are included in a 2017 city ordinance as part of the city’s allowable pot corridors. Bunnell has a Circle K at the intersection of State Street and State Road 100.
Pot would not be sold over the counter like any other merchandise, but through Green Thumb dispensaries co-located with, or adjacent to, Circle K stores. Green Thumb will lease the space from the Canadian-based convenience store company.
The “test and learn” locations of the new pot dispensaries at Circle K will be called RISE Express. The stores will offer patients a selection of branded cannabis products including RYTHM premium flower, Dogwalkers pre-rolls, incredibles gummies and &Shine vapes.
“The opening of RISE Express stores at Circle K locations is a game-changer,” Green Thumb Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ben Kovler is quoted as saying in a company release. “Convenience is a strong channel in retail, and people want more access to cannabis.” He said the new model “is a huge step forward in making it easier and more efficient for patients to purchase high-quality cannabis as part of their everyday routine when stopping by their local convenience store.”
There are a total of 436 dispensaries in Florida, led by Trulieve, which has 115 locations, more than double the nearest competitor (Curaleaf, with 50). The Circle K partnership with RISE Express could potentially swamp that number and shift both the market and patients’ habits to the more convenience-store approach of buying the products.
Florida legalized medical marijuana in 2016, when 71 percent of voters approved the constitutional amendment legalizing it. The Legislature approved a law legalizing smokable medical marijuana three years ago. Nineteen states have legalized recreational marijuana. Florida is not among them. A ballot measure was headed for the Nov. 8 election ballot that would have given voters the option of legalizing recreational marijuana. The Florida Supreme Court killed the proposal, terming its language misleading.
The products available at these retail stores will come from the Company’s new 28-acre cultivation facility in Ocala that will be operational by the end of 2022. Green Thumb entered the Florida market in 2018. The company also has an existing cultivation and processing facility in Homestead.
Chicago-based Green Thumb is a national company that militantly advocates for broader access to pot and against what it calls “prohibition 2.0.”
“Whether you enjoy cannabis for health, happiness, comfort, or another reason entirely, we believe in the right to have access, options, and, most importantly, the safest products available,” the company states on its website. It sells medical pot through its RISE Dispensaries, including seven locations in Florida. None are near Flagler. (They’re in Pinellas Park, Bonita Springs and South Florida.)
According to the Florida Department of Health, over 700,000 Floridians are currently registered active cardholders in the state’s medical marijuana program. For more information on Florida’s medical marijuana program, visit www.knowthefactsmmj.com.
Across the nation, Green Thumb has 17 manufacturing facilities, 77 open retail locations and operations across 15 U.S. markets.. It employs some 4,000 people.
In Florida, the home cultivation of marijuana, even for holders of medical pot cards, is still illegal. Patients must have a physician’s authorization to buy medical pot, with limits on how much may be prescribed.