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Health News Florida

Trulieve Opens First Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Pasco County

Trulieve dispensary
Daylina Miller/WUSF News

More than 150 patients on the Florida medical marijuana registry lined up outside Trulieve’s new location on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey Wednesday morning for a grand opening discount of 25 percent.

It's the first dispensary in Pasco County, and comes after pushback last year from some county officials and anti-drug groups.

Pasco was one of several counties last year that temporarily banned dispensaries until the state hashed out a regulatory framework.

Jamie Howe was one of the first medical marijuana patients in line. She attended several county and city meetings last year in support of local dispensaries.

“As a patient, I felt it was a slap in the face for them to ban dispensaries where I live,” Howe said.

Howe has been disabled for years after complications from a gastric bypass surgery, and was diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which she said causes debilitating pain. She's grateful that New Port Richey officials eventually relented.

"I'm very proud of New Port Richey for taking the step forward that none of the other cities in Pasco County did,” Howe said. “Chronic pain patients like myself need an alternative to deadly opioids and that is why I am helping bring this medicine to my community.”

One man interviewed for the story says he spends more than $3,000 each year out of pocket on medications.
Credit Daylina Miller / WUSF News
Trulieve employees double check that patients are registered in the state medical marijuana database, and what their authorization enables them to buy, and then helps them choose the best option.

Most of these patients in line Wednesday have been driving to Clearwater or Tampa to pick up their medicine, which ranges from flowers for vaporizing, to tinctures, capsules, nasal sprays, and a topical cream.

Michael Layden has been on the registry since 2016, when voters approved a state amendment broadly legalizing medical marijuana.

The Spring Hill resident is happy to drive a much shorter distance to the New Port Richey location.

"It's a lot more convenient than a 45-minute drive, 70 miles, toll, round-trip.”

A Florida judge just lifted a stay on smoking medical marijuana.

Credit Daylina Miller / WUSF News

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said the company is ready to dispense flowers for smoking as soon as the Florida Department of Health releases its new rules, which are due Monday.

“Truleive stands at the ready, ready to offer that product to patients who need it,” Rivers said. “Why it's important is those patients need to experience the entire entourage effect, which is all of the cannabinoid profiles, all the turpenes, all the flavonoids that are available and only available really, in whole plant material."

Tallahassee-based Trulieve is one of the 13 companies the state has allowed to operate in Florida, where medical marijuana became law in 2016. They have 14 other dispensaries.

There are currently 117,522 patients in the state medical marijuana registry, with 1,339 physicians qualified to authorize the medication. There are 39 dispensing locations, including the 15 operated by Trulieve.