A 4:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting today at a strip shopping near I-4 marked the official opening of Lakeland’s first medical marijuana dispensary. Curaleaf opened last week in the Market Square center on U.S. 98 that also includes Just Moves Gym and Guitar Center. It is part of an expanding company that advertises same-day or next-day delivery throughout Florida.
The 3,043-square-foot Lakeland facility at 3145 U.S. 98 N. offers medical marijuana products, private consultation areas and educational resources on cannabinoid therapies, Curaleaf said in a news release.
Lindsay Jones, the president of Curaleaf Florida, told The Ledger in May that growing up in Lakeland made him eager to locate a dispensary here. Jones graduated in 1968 from Rochelle High School, an all-black school at the time.
Because of Lakeland’s size and central location, “in order to expand our patient base, there is absolutely no way we can do that and not go through Lakeland as we move along,” Jones said.
Massachusetts-based Curaleaf operates 26 dispensaries in 10 states, including nine others in Florida: Jacksonville, Palm Bay, Lake Worth, St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor, Orlando, Fort Myers, Southern Miami-Dade County and the Dadeland area in Miami.
Jones foresees further growth in Central Florida and says the company expects to have 22 Florida locations by the end of the year. “My desire is to have several stores in Tampa. It’s one of the major population centers in the state,” he told Tampa Bay Business Journal.
With 147,000 people in Florida signed up to use medical marijuana, Curaleaf has attracted thousands of job applicants but “maybe only 10 percent of those are qualified and meet the legal requirements,” a company spokesman told The Orlando Sentinel recently.
Curaleaf typically hires 12 to 14 people at each site and hires local drivers. It offers discounts for senior citizens, pediatric patients, military veterans and government financial assistance patients.
The Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use requires patients to have a prescription from a qualified physician and a state medical marijuana card to obtain medical cannabis.
Curaleaf says people can’t enter their dispensaries without a marijuana card and can’t buy products without a prescription.
The most recent state list includes 13 Lakeland physicians who have completed the training required to prescribe marijuana. A clinic dedicated to marijuana treatment opened on Imperial Boulevard last October.