Health Care

Miami’s only locally based medical marijuana company has a new name, new product

Smokable medical marijuana is legal now. Take a look at one of the dispensaries that’s selling it

CEO of Miami's only hometown medical marijuana dispensary talks about introducing medical marijuana to conservative Latino grandparents. Sales for smokable medical marijuana have gone up since it was legalized in Florida in March 2019.
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CEO of Miami's only hometown medical marijuana dispensary talks about introducing medical marijuana to conservative Latino grandparents. Sales for smokable medical marijuana have gone up since it was legalized in Florida in March 2019.

As the head of Miami’s only locally based medical marijuana dispensaries, Jose Javier Hidalgo considers his goal to be reaching every corner of the community.

But convincing your neighborhood abuelita that weed is legal now, at least medically, and can be used to treat debilitating ailments, may take some explaining.

“If you grew up in Latin America, marijuana is considered no different than cocaine or heroin,” said Hidalgo, the CEO of Cansortium, which operates dispensaries under the name Fluent Cannabis Care. “Now that people are beginning to understand that there is a safely manufactured product that they can count on and that they don’t need to be buying it off the streets, I think that’s going to change.”

The effort to make Miami’s diverse populace more well versed in the potential benefits of medical marijuana underpins Hidalgo’s decision to change the name of his dispensary chain. It had been named Knox Medical since its launch about two years ago.

“Over those years, we’ve learned so much about cannabis. We’ve learned from patients, doctors, and our own extensive research and testing,” Hidalgo said in a statement. “We’ve learned how to translate our knowledge and expertise, making life-changing impacts for patients from Florida to Texas, Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico, and soon, all around the world. We’ve learned to adapt to new markets, patient communities, and cultures. In fact, you might say we’ve become Fluent.”

The rebranding of the company comes two months after it completed its initial public offering of stock. The company is now trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

It also dove tails with the reversal of a Florida ban on smokable medical marijuana in March. Patients have been visiting the company’s dispensaries at higher rates since Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the reversal into law on March 18.

Fluent sells 3.5-gram pot tins and half-gram pre-rolled joints. The flower products come in CBD strains, which are non-euphoric, or THC, the component in pot that causes a high. The tins cost $45-$55. The joints cost $8-$10 each, or $21-$25 for three.

“Demand is astronomical for the flower product,” Hidalgo said. “I think we’re seeing a growth of about 25 percent of the patients that are coming into the program.”

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Fluent Cannabis Care’s North Miami Beach dispensary. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

He said his dispensaries are selling out of the flower products every day, as a new wave of customers sees their demands met.

“People were not coming into the dispensary because we didn’t have flower, or the industry didn’t have flower,” he said. “I think a lot of these folks were probably purchasing on the black market waiting for smokable flower to become available.”

By the end of 2019, Hidalgo said his company will have opened 30 dispensaries across Florida. And in Miami-Dade County, Hidalgo opened his first store — as Knox Medical — in North Miami Beach in January, and plans to open up three additional stores this year and a fourth in 2020.

A dispensary in Kendall, at 9611 SW 88th St., is scheduled to open this spring. Stores in Cutler Bay, 11245 SW 211th St., and South Beach, 1439 Alton Rd., are planned for this summer. And by early 2020, the company plans to open up shop in Coral Gables at 5827 SW Bird Road. Hidalgo runs 10 dispensaries in Florida, Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania.

Each dispensary is protected by 24-hour armed security, and features a consultation room for private discussions. Prices range from $45 for a 300 mg vaporizer cartridge of cannabis oil to $115 for 60 pot pills or $200 for 30 suppositories. Next-day delivery is also available for customers within a 20-mile radius.

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The counter at Fluent Cannabis Care’s North Miami Beach dispensary. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

Jim McClendon, a 61-year-old Army veteran living in Weston, visited the North Miami Beach dispensary on Thursday to purchase CBD and THC sub-lingual drops, and THC oil for vaporizing. He was diagnosed by a local Veterans Affairs physician as having post-traumatic stress disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and depression.

McClendon’s daily routine is to drop some CBD liquid under his tongue during the day, a few more at night and then to hit his vaporizer a couple of times before going to bed.

“For 20-25 years I haven’t been able to sleep through the night. I just can’t,” he said. “The first night I did the combination of the three [treatment methods], I slept entirely through the night.”

Recently, he has begun to build up a tolerance and wakes up about once a night. But his bouts of anger and his depression have almost entirely disappeared, he said.

“I’m still in heaven,” he said. “My wife thinks it’s a miracle drop.”

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