Marijuana

Growing Up: Meet the Flowery, Florida's Only Family-Owned Cannabis Dispensary

Brian Roberts, head of cultivation at the Flowery
Photo courtesy of the Flowery
Brian Roberts, head of cultivation at the Flowery
Nestled amid the rolling farmlands of Homestead, in the heart of Miami's thriving cannabis cultivation scene, sits a massive facility where, at any given moment, roughly 20,000 marijuana plants are growing. Think Willy Wonka's factory, only with weed.

The roughly 100,000-square-foot building houses nearly 30 propagation and cannabis grow rooms in various sizes, plus a few spaces dedicated to extractions, hashish processing, and packaging. The facility is run by the Flowery, a Miami-owned and family-operated medical marijuana business.

The Flowery is one of Florida's 22 vertically integrated medical marijuana operators — meaning it handles every aspect of the cannabis process from seed to sale, as required by the state's so-called vertical integration rule. As New Times previously reported, this law has often led to the formation of cannabis oligopolies, in which a small number of big companies wield control over the cannabis market and leave little space for smaller businesses.

That's why the Flowery has won praise in Florida. Though the small-scale company has been rapidly growing in the past few years — from a single employee to roughly 60, and from a 6,000-square-foot, environmentally-controlled indoor facility to one more than 15 times that size — it has managed to remain mindful of its roots. The company continues to hand-deliver products, including marijuana flower, prerolls, and kief, to patients' homes across the state, from northeast Florida to the keys. The company has prided itself on producing high-quality goods locally, and not relying on backing from large corporations.

But as the years have passed and cannabis giants like Trulieve and Surterra Wellness have expanded across the state, a number of South Florida mom-and-pop CBD and medical-marijuana businesses have caved to corporate pressure or closed down. In the past two years, at least four smaller businesses in Miami-Dade and Broward –– Lav CBD, HempXtra, Green Treets CBD, and Dr. Stern's CBD –– have shuttered. Meanwhile, Trulieve has grown from three to 12 dispensaries, Curaleaf from one to seven dispensaries, and Liberty Health Sciences from one to five dispensaries.

"Had he been able to use medical marijuana, we believe we would still have him here today."

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In order to compete with the major players in Florida's multibillion-dollar cannabis industry, the Flowery has begun to deviate from its small-scale roots. Over the past few months, the company has brought on at least 40 new employees, moved into a larger grow facility to manage its operations, and hired a handful of big-shot industry executives — all of whom previously oversaw operations at the cannabis company One Plant, which last year sold to Cresco Labs for $213 million.

In a recent interview, the Flowery's new chief operating officer Mike Smuts and its director of innovation, Matti Marshak, explained to New Times that even though the company is expanding at a rapid clip — there are plans to open four new dispensaries and hire another 100 employees in the coming years — it's focused on preserving what Smuts calls its "family vibe."

"We're really kind of growing up in terms of an organization," Smuts says.
click to enlarge Cloning bench at the Flowery - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FLOWERY
Cloning bench at the Flowery
Photo courtesy of the Flowery
The Flowery's business office is located in a converted warehouse on NW 24th Street in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood that sports a mural of a pink flamingo painted across its storefront. That's where New Times met up with Sabina Osman, the company's sales and marketing coordinator and its first-ever employee.

"I started out helping with compliance and a lot of licensing with the department of health," Osman shares. "You basically have to communicate with the department of health on everything — it's so highly regulated."

Until 2016, when Floridians voted to legalize medical cannabis, state law required medical marijuana growers to have at least 30 years of experience in the plant nursery business. So the Flowery partnered with former Virginia Gardens police chief Steve Garrison, who owned Bill's Nursery, a longtime almond farm in Homestead, to kickstart its operation.

Garrison had been inspired to break into the medical marijuana industry after his son Matthew sustained a brain injury during the Iraq War. In January of 2017, as Garrison was persisting in his years-long push to obtain a state license to grow medical marijuana, his son died of an overdose of his sleep medication. (The cause of death was ruled heart failure.) When the state failed to issue ten new pot-growing licenses by October 2017, as it had promised, Bill's Nursery sued in federal court. The Garrisons have long maintained that medical cannabis could have helped their son.

"The VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] loaded him up with pharmaceuticals," Steve Garrison tells New Times. "Had he been able to use medical marijuana, we believe we would still have him here today."

Finally, in 2019, the family was awarded a Florida Medical Marijuana Treatment Center license through a settlement agreement. Osman recalls receiving news of the approved license on April 19, 2019 — mere hours shy of the 4/20 celebrations.

"They [state officials] were messing with us," she jokes.

The Flowery has since grown from the small-scale operation where Osman herself hand-delivered medical marijuana to clients to an outfit led by some of the highest-profile marijuana executives in the business. None of that has changed the company's spirit, says Garrison, who at age 77 still visits the facility nearly every day; his three surviving children and two grandchildren are active in the Flowery's day-to-day operations.

"Everyone sold out to the Canadians," Garrison tells New Times, referring to the number of Canada-based firms that have obtained medical marijuana licenses in Florida. "We got offers, but it'd be awfully hypocritical if we took the money and ran. We said we were doing this because it is the right thing to do and to help people. We've taken investors because we have no choice — the burdens the DOH [Florida Department of Health] puts on you are serious. We have bled cash for the past six or seven years. Eventually, this will be a moneymaking operation, but we are proud that we are able to ease pain and suffering."

Asked about the prospect of becoming the next Trulieve or Curaleaf, the Flowery's chief executive officer, Elad Kohen, exclaims "Hell no! We are doing everything we can to be the exact opposite."
click to enlarge The Flowery's cloning room (left) and indoor grow facility (right) - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FLOWERY
The Flowery's cloning room (left) and indoor grow facility (right)
Photo courtesy of the Flowery
The Flowery is on track to open its first brick-and-mortar dispensary in June, in a converted bank in the middle of what Smuts refers to as Miami's "Green Mile" on Biscayne Boulevard — a stretch between NE 105th and NE 125th streets in North Miami that boasts a number of medical marijuana dispensaries. An "Opening Soon" banner is draped across the front doors of the store, located across the street from the popular Steve's Pizza joint. Smuts says the company intends to convert the former bank's drive-through ATM lanes into a drive-thru ordering and pick-up service.

Medical patients with a medical marijuana card in Florida can expect a "high-end" experience at the dispensary, which will be decorated with colorful, neon lights. The store will have a garden, a large claw machine, self-ordering kiosks, and even a speakeasy-type experience wherein customers can enter a secret door in a phone booth to find "hidden products." Weed offerings, such as flower and kief, will be on display on wooden tables and touted on plasma TV screens.

"I don't know if you've ever been to a Surterra or anything like that," Marshak says, referring to the sanitized and fluorescent vibe of rival chain dispensaries. "But think exactly the opposite."

"We got offers but it'd be awfully hypocritical if we took the money and run."

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Over the next two years, the Flowery expects to open at least four additional dispensaries across Florida, in Inverness, Clearwater, Ocala, and Venice. The company is also working on a partnership with West Coast cannabis brands such as 710 LABS, Backpack Boyz, and Packwoods.

Despite the accelerated growth, the Flowery's principals insist on remaining true to their roots. Smuts goes so far as to compare the company Flowery to David in the biblical tale of David and Goliath, noting that they've already come a long way from being the underdogs in the industry.

The mindset, he maintains, has always been quality over quantity, and they're continuing to work to create better flower, new flavors, and to add to their menu with products like edibles and solventless hash.

When asked what will separate the Flowery from its competitors, he doesn't hesitate.

"Our product will speak for itself," he says. "The pot will be different."