Florida health officials may have just dashed a cannabis company's plans to open medical marijuana dispensaries at Circle K gas stations and convenience stores.
Last week, Alimentation Couche-Tard, the Canadian company that owns Circle K, announced that it had inked a new deal with Green Thumb Industries, a cannabis company that operates dispensaries in 15 US states. In the first phase of a new pilot program, Green Thumb planned to open RISE Express medical marijuana outlets at 10 selected Circle K locations beginning next year.
Green Thumb recently clarified that the new dispensaries would be adjacent to Circle K locations, and not actually located inside the convenience stores. The dispensaries would have independent outdoor entrances, and there would be no walk-through access between the convenience store and the age-restricted dispensary space. Dispensary staff would deny access to anyone that does not have a valid state-issued medical marijuana card.
The announcement made big headlines last week, but now it's looking like the companies may have jumped the gun. The Florida health department, which regulates the state's medical cannabis industry, recently told the press that it has not granted regulatory approval to the proposed Circle K dispensaries.
"This project has not been approved by the State," a spokesperson for the state health department told the Washington Examiner. "Florida has never approved a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center to operate out of a gas station." Health officials also confirmed to MJBizDaily that “the state of Florida has never ever approved the licensing of this sort of material out of a gas station.”
In a recent press release, Green Thumb acknowledged that it still needed the state to sign off on its plan to open the new dispensaries. “As with all dispensary locations in Florida, the opening of RISE Express stores remains subject to regulatory approval,” the company said in a statement.
The health department did not disclose whether it was planning to eventually approve the proposed partnership, or whether it would axe the plan altogether. Common sense would suggest that regulators would sign off on the deal, as it would certainly add value to Florida's robust medical cannabis industry. The Sunshine State currently has one of the most lucrative legal weed markets in the entire US, even though adult-use cannabis remains strictly prohibited.
But when it comes to cannabis and politics, common sense doesn't seem to apply. Florida lawmakers have taken great efforts to derail the state's cannabis industry, despite the fact that it has significantly boosted the state economy and created thousands of jobs. Lawmakers initially banned the sale of smokable flower, and although a state judge eventually overturned this unconstitutional restriction, politicians are still fighting to pass new restrictions that could cripple this thriving new industry.