ST. PETERSBURG - The reception area is all the average person off the street might ever see on a visit to the Trulieve dispensary on Ameritech Way. They only allow certain people past a locked door to a retail area where medical cannabis is kept and sold.
"We'll look on the Florida registry to make sure you're in the system, verify it with an ID,” said Trulieve patient consultant Joel Lagace.
On November 8, Florida voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on Amendment 2, to decide whether or not more patients should be eligible for the state’s medical cannabis registry.
Current law limits use to the terminally ill and patients with chronic seizures from conditions outlined in the state’s “Charlotte’s Web” law, which passed in 2014.
It took about two years for the state to put into place a licensing program that allows a limited number of companies to grow and dispense the medical cannabis.
The Department of Health initially licensed just five operations statewide (Lawsuits have led the department to issue additional licenses). The Trulieve dispensary was among the first in the state to begin delivering product to patients.
Lagace thinks there’s a misconception — based on images from other states — about what people will find in Florida’s dispensaries.
"In the beginning of their footage is usually big jars [of dried marijuana], people buying it, they might show someone smoking a joint,” Lagace said.
State statute says marijuana cannot legally be smoked in Florida, so you won’t find cannabis in plant form in any of the state regulated dispensaries.
The closest product available at Trulieve is a powdery substance locked into a small, ceramic cartridge about the same size and shape as a thimble.
“That’s the full flower crushed down,” Lagace said.
The cartridge goes into a vaporizer.
"You can't do anything with that powder except put it in here if you want to use it,” he said.
Trulieve also makes cannabis capsules and oils that can be ingested or vaporized. They are all sold in an environment reminiscent of a cosmetics counter.
"Most of our sales are through delivery right now. That's mainly based on the patients that we deal with. Some of them, or the majority of them, have seizures or are immobilized in different ways,” Lagace said.
If Amendment 2 passes, it would expand the list of patients eligible to use medical marijuana to those with HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, “or other debilitating medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those enumerated.”
The amendment tasks the Legislature and the Florida Department of Health with developing and enforcing regulations, so some believe the state will model the laws governing new growers and dispensaries after those currently on the books. Opponents of Amendment 2 say that is not guaranteed.
“Dispensaries currently allowed in Florida are based on legislation that took two years to implement, in order to take every step possible to prevent widespread abuse,” Vote No on 2 Campaign spokeswoman Christina Johnson told FOX 35 in a written statement.
“Amendment 2, on the other hand, is so vague and full of loopholes, it will be the wild, wild, west should it pass,” Johnson said.