Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jun 2018
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2018 Orlando Sentinel
Author: Marcia Heroux Pounds
Note: Rarely prints out-of-state LTEs.


You could be in luck: Florida's Medical Marijuana Industry Is Beginning 
To Take Off

Medical marijuana dispensary hiring in Florida is beginning to
germinate, as existing operators prepare to open new stores and other
companies enter the market.

In South Florida, legal growers operate only a handful of
dispensaries. But those dispensaries -- including Knox Medical,
Curaleaf and Trulieve -- are laying the groundwork for new locations
in the tricounty region and across the state. And California-based
MedMen is getting ready to enter the market, which could heat up

Expansion by existing and new operators could result in more than 500
dispensaries across the state -- and thousands of jobs. Each may
employ 10 to 15 people in jobs including manager and customer service
positions at dispensaries, as well as delivery workers, cultivation
experts, and makers of medical marijuana products.

"It's a new industry in Florida, and people see great potential," said
Michael Costa, dispensary operations manager for Curaleaf, which has
one location in Lake Worth and two in Miami.

Some companies have deep pockets to invest in expansion. MedMen, a
publicly traded company with a $1.6 billion market valuation, recently
agreed to acquire Treadwell Nursery in Eustis for $53 million. MedMen
has 13 dispensaries in California, Nevada and New York, and is
planning about 45 new stores -- that could include as many as 25 in

MedMen is seeking a toehold in Florida because of the rapid growth of
the state's medical marijuana program, according to spokesman Daniel

As of June 15, there were 100,000 Florida residents with approved
medical marijuana cards, and nearly 3,000 in processing, according to
the state's Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

MedMen is gambling that Florida eventually will legalize recreational
marijuana. Yi points to California and other states that began by
legalizing medical marijuana and later legalized the adult use of pot.

"We feel Florida is going to be on that path eventually," Yi said.

But even for medical marijuana locations, finding a city that allows a
dispensary has been challenging, as many in the state passed
ordinances to keep them away, and not all landlords have been willing
to lease their property to operators.

Jeff Sharkey, founder of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of
Florida, said for the industry to continue rapid expansion, "local
governments have to be expand their willingness" for medical marijuana
stores. They should know, he said, that dispensaries that have opened
in the state don't look like head shops. "They're very well done," he

Accusing Florida health officials of a "colossal blunder" that created
a "dumpster fire," an administrative law judge recommended that the
state grant a highly sought-after medical marijuana license to a South
Florida nursery.

Currently, there are 13 companies in Florida with licenses to grow and
make medical marijuana products, and each is allowed 25 dispensaries.
Another eight licenses, including four authorized when the registry
hit the 100,000-patient mark, could be approved in the next three to
six months, according to Sharkey.

And by 2020, the 25-dispensary cap per operator goes away, he

South Florida's dispensaries currently include Curaleaf; Knox Medical
in Lake Worth; Trulieve in Miami; and Surterra Wellness Center in
Miami Beach.

Curaleaf's parent company is Massachusetts-based PalliaTech, which has
23 dispensary locations in 11 states. Miami-based Costa Farms received
one of the first licenses in the state to grow marijuana for medical
purposes, launching a separate business, Modern Health Concepts, that
in 2017 partnered with the more experienced PalliaTech to open

Curaleaf, which already employs 180 people in Florida, recently opened
in Palm Harbor, Palm Bay and Fort Myers. In the works are locations in
North Miami, Lakeland, Orlando, Tampa and Ocala, Costa said.

"Our goal at Curaleaf is to open as many locations as we can where we
can bring value to patients," said Costa, who is not associated with
Costa Farms.

At its Lake Worth store, which opened in January, customers were lined
up before the doors opened on Friday. "This is our busiest store," he

In South Florida, Broward County has been a gap in its service,
because its major cities haven't allowed dispensaries. Curaleaf has
only been able to offer home delivery there, but the company hopes to
soon open a dispensary in Broward as well, Costa said.

There could be an opportunity in Fort Lauderdale, where the moratorium
on medical marijuana dispensaries expired in March. As a result, there
could be up to four dispensaries allowed, according to City Manager
Lee Feldman.

Toronto-based Liberty Health Sciences is expecting to open a dispensary 
in a few weeks at 4500 N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, according 
to spokeswoman Karen Chase.

Liberty, which calls its dispensaries "cannabis education centers,"
has two locations in Tampa, as well as stores in St. Petersburg, Port
St. Lucie, and The Villages. Plans call for a total of 12 in Florida
by year's end, Chase said.

Trulieve, based in Quincy near Tallahassee, operates 15 dispensaries
in the state, including one in Miami, and has hired more than 800 employees.

Spokeswoman Victoria Walker said Trulieve has plans for additional
dispensaries in Miami as well as stores in Boynton Beach and West Palm
Beach. It also is exploring sites in Broward, she said.

"We know the patient population is growing, and we're committed to
expanding as quickly as possible," Walker said.

Miami-based Knox Medical, which has a dispensary in Lake Worth across
from City Hall, also is getting ready to open new locations in South
Florida and across the state. It has been recruiting at local job
fairs in South Florida.

"We're taking on new folks for dispensaries that will be launching in
the next few months," said Scott Klenet, spokesman for Knox Medical.
"There will be six more and open by the end of the year -- several
will be in South Florida."

He said Knox Medical also is hiring for positions at its headquarters
in the Wynwood district of Miami.

While job candidates aren't expected to have experience in the
industry, dispensary workers need "to be compassionate and
understanding," Klenet said.

"Many patients very sick. They don't know what product is best for
them, or how to take the product."

Workers receive training on the types of products available, which may
include capsules, vaporizers, oil concentrates and topical creams.
Before they can be hired, medical marijuana workers must pass a
criminal background check by the Florida Department of Health.

Costa said while physicians write the orders for a type of cannabis
and how to administer it, there can be choices within that. With
inhalers, for example, there are different strains. "Part of our
training is educating staff on that and the quantity they can take,"
he said. "Some [strains] are more sedating, and some are more

The House on Wednesday froze $2.1 million in salary and expenses at
the Department of Health for failing to respond to concerns raised by
a joint legislative committee over a trio of emergency rules relating
to medical marijuana.

James Yagielo, co-founder and CEO of HempStaff in Key Largo, said his
staffing company has trained more than 5,000 individuals for the
medical marijuana industry through classes in Florida and other
states. Students often include nurses, pharmaceutical assistants and
other medical professionals, he said.

Of those trained, Yagielo estimates that 20 percent to 25 percent have
found jobs.

While there are recent college graduates interested in medical
marijuana jobs, he said, "20 percent of our students are 55 or over
looking for a part-time job."

Evan Eisenberg, 29, recently started a new job as dispensary manager
for Curaleaf's new Palm Harbor location, the first to have a
drive-through service window. Eisenberg previously worked as an
assistant manager at another company's dispensary in Champaign, Ill.

Wanting to return to Florida, he applied to an ad for a
dispensary manager position and was hired by Curaleaf, where he now
oversees eight workers.

Eisenberg said he likes the job because it gives him "the ability to
come in and help people every day ... it's cool to be able to shape a
new industry like this."