Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens in Dadeland

When Florida's anti-pot lobby, the Drug Free Florida Committee, tried to scare Floridians away from legalizing medical marijuana for cancer and AIDS patients, the group warned that pot patients would be forced to buy their weed from unshowered "budtenders" with Bob Marley tattoos.

In reality, Miamians are now getting their medicinal pot at sleek dispensaries run by former CEOs and wealthy farm owners who have made large campaign contributions to political candidates.

Today, one South Florida firm — Costa Farms — announced it's opening its first standalone dispensary, in Dadeland, under the brand name "Curaleaf." The store is located at 9002 S. Dadeland Blvd., about two blocks south of Dadeland Mall.

“As one of the first and top-ranked medical cannabis licensees in Florida, Curaleaf is committed to making this life-changing treatment available and accessible to all, so that suffering patients can find true relief,” Curaleaf CEO Gregg Roberts said in a news release. According to the company, the store will sell cannabis oil, vaporizer pens, and capsules recently legalized under state law, as well as Haleigh's Hope, a low-THC marijuana oil that doesn't get its users high.

Trulieve, owned by a North Florida firm, opened Miami's first storefront medical pot dispensary in April near Miami International Airport.

Before changing its medical marijuana arm's brand name to Curaleaf, Costa Farms called it "Modern Health Concepts" and had been delivering medicinal cannabis and low-THC oil to patients across the Miami-Dade for months. But the company is still run by the same group of agricultural and food-industry titans, including Roberts, who formerly worked as an executive with the Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.

According to an August New Times piece profiling the new titans of Florida's marijuana industry, Costa Farms' eponymous Costa family is one of the more powerful clans in the agriculture business. The company operates a nursery in the Redland in South Miami-Dade. Hurricane Andrew flattened the place in 1992, but since then, it has ballooned into a global green conglomerate that makes $450 million a year in revenue. They sell products to Walmart, Home Depot, and IKEA.

The Costas were awarded a cannabis-growing certificate in 2015. Since then, they've donated $347,000 to state political candidates in the 2016 and 2018 election cycles.

"We wanted to make sure our business interests and the interests of our patients were well represented," Roberts told New Times last month. "We think the state legislative session was fair and allowed for a controlled expansion of the market." State legislators fought for months over whether to award more growing certificates to other farms across the state — critics have labeled the small, well-connected group of current growers a "cartel." Since then, more companies have entered the business.

Though the shiny glass countertops at Curaleaf might seem enticing, for now it's still pretty difficult to obtain a medical marijuana certificate in the Sunshine State. According to state law, the Florida Office of Medical Marijuana Use can issue a marijuana card only after a doctor writes a recommendation. But according to the Miami Herald, doctors had certified more than 31,000 patients for cards as of August 23, and the state marijuana office's 12 employees have been overwhelmed by the demand for pot cards.

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