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Medical cannabis firm doubles down on St. Pete

Brian Hartz



Medical cannabis company Curaleaf recently opened new locations in Bradenton, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg.

The medical marijuana industry is booming in Florida. Since the passage of Amendment 2 in 2016, which made medical cannabis legal to produce, market and sell in the state, Florida has quickly become the fourth-largest cannabis market in the nation.

In 2020, medical cannabis companies racked up $1.2 billion in sales in the Sunshine State. One of the largest in the world, Wakefield, Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, was responsible for a sizeable chunk of that business, and now it’s going after even more market share.

Curaleaf marketing director Yesenia Garcia.

On Feb. 5, Curaleaf opened its second dispensary in St. Petersburg, at 5935 4th St. N., and followed that up with additional new retail locations in Jacksonville and Bradenton. It now has 36 dispensaries in Florida and 100 nationwide.

Florida, said Yesenia Garcia, Curaleaf’s Miami-based vice president of marketing, “is definitely the company’s largest retail footprint.” Florida, she added, is a “seed to sale” state, meaning vertically integrated companies like Curaleaf can both grow and sell medical cannabis. In some other states, Garcia said, the company is limited to wholesale operations only.

She said the emphasis on Florida and the Tampa Bay area also makes sense because of population growth: “We’re definitely seeing an impact on patient registration throughout the state. Our program is growing every day.”

Garcia attributes Curaleaf’s success to an innovative yet science-based approach to product development, as well as a high level of customer service that inspires consumer loyalty despite the proliferation of competitors such as MedMen, Trulieve and Surterra. She said it’s not unheard of for Curaleaf customers to celebrate birthdays at the company’s stores, and for customers to develop long-lasting relationships with their favorite associates.

“It’s just a real sense of community that makes us stand out,” she said.

With Democrats now in control of all three branches of the federal government, legalization of medical cannabis in all 50 states is much closer to reality. Garcia said Curaleaf will be ready if and when that day comes.

“It’s definitely something that we feel strongly about,” she said. “The opportunity to provide the option of cannabis as a part of a wellness routine to people across the country is the ultimate goal. We’re standing by and seeing what happens with it.”

For now, though, Curaleaf will concentrate on the launch and marketing of new products such as Select Elite cannabis oil, which debuted in Florida in August and reached $1 million in sales in less than a month, and NANO Drops, a fast-acting cannabis tincture made with nano-emulsion technology that can be mixed into any beverage. “It’s a way of being able to find relief fast,” Garcia said.

Curaleaf’s other St. Petersburg store is located at 3811 Tyrone Blvd. N.

“Since opening our first dispensary in St. Petersburg in 2018, our team has forged invaluable patient connections, and we look forward to offering our world-class care to even more patients through this second location,” Curaleaf CEO Joe Bayern stated in a press release about the opening of the new store. “Our commitment to patient education and wellness is reflected in our suite of quality offerings and exceptional retail experience, and we encourage new and returning patients to make Curaleaf part of their cannabis journeys.”

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    February 12, 2021at11:27 am

    Yesenia Garcia: “The opportunity to provide the option of cannabis as a part of a wellness routine to people across the country is the ultimate goal.”

    Perhaps, but my guess is that it’s all about the Benjamins.

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