North Miami - NMB

Medical marijuana dispensary plans five-store expansion in Miami-Dade County

With Gov. Ron DeSantis hinting that Florida’s ban on smoked medical marijuana may come to an end, an “aggressive” dispensary expansion is planned for Miami-Dade County.

Knox Medical, a Wynwood-based medical marijuana company, has opened its first dispensary in Miami-Dade County and plans to further expand into the area this year and in 2020.

The company’s new store in North Miami Beach, located at 175 NW 167th St. and scheduled for a grand opening Saturday, is the ninth medical marijuana dispensary in the county and among several dozen scattered across the state and operated by 14 companies licensed by the state, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Knox Medical, which operates 10 dispensaries in Florida, Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania — and runs a manufacturing facility and statewide cannabis delivery business in Texas — sells a line of vaporizing oils, tinctures, pills, suppositories and topical creams that contain varied concentrations of the high-inducing cannabis compound THC and the non-euphoric CBD.

“It’s all about the patient having the best possible experience, and it’s about providing them access,” said Knox Medical CEO José Javier Hidalgo.

Although cultivating and distributing smokeable forms of medical marijuana — that is, cannabis for use in joints or pipes — remains illegal under state law, industry players like Knox Medical were made hopeful this week that change was coming following comments by the recently elected governor.

DeSantis indicated on Monday that he plans to drop the state’s appeal of a court ruling that states a ban on smoking medical cannabis flies in the face of a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized the treatment method. The amendment passed with more than 71 percent of the vote.

Director of Retail Operations Mark Batievsky, left, and Chief Executive Officer Jose Javier Hidalgo discuss the services offered at Knox Medical’s newest medical cannabis dispensary in North Miami Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. AL DIAZ

The Legislature included the smoking ban in a 2017 bill that also limited the number of dispensaries and licenses the state can approve. Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“I think a lot of voters were frustrated that they don’t think that [the amendment] has been [properly executed]. They think there’s been a lot of foot-dragging. So my job is, when the people speak, you have to listen. This was not an amendment that was really that close. It was like 72 percent,” DeSantis said Monday, according to the News Service of Florida.

Hidalgo, the Knox Medical CEO, said his company is prepared to quickly add smokeable products to its offerings at dispensaries. The company currently extracts the compounds from cannabis flowers to create its non-smokeable products.

“That’s been long overdue,” Hidalgo said. “There is a place for flower in the market.”

Knox Medical plans to open up three additional stores in the county in 2019 and a fourth by 2020. A dispensary in Kendall, 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.

Medical cannabis products in pill form offered at Knox Medical’s newest medical cannabis dispensary in North Miami Beach on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. AL DIAZ

“We already serve thousands of patients in the greater Miami metro area through our delivery service and at our dispensary in Lake Worth,” said Knox Medical spokesman Scott Klenet in an email. “Our aggressive expansion plan for 2019 will see Knox growing this footprint in our own backyard.”

The North Miami Beach store, with its simple industrial design, resembles an Apple store in some ways — and seeks to break from the perception of marijuana dispensaries as cannabis candy stores. Patients suffering from debilitating physical and mental illnesses, such as cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder, are tended to by a team of employees with medical and retail experience.

When a staff member is ready to see a patient, the number in front of their station lights up. The patient’s name is checked against the state’s patient portal, where dispensary staff can see what substance, dose and method the patient’s doctor has recommended. For first-time patients, or those with additional questions, Knox offers a private consultation room where patients and staff can go over options and discuss potential concerns.

“We want to give them a comfortable space where they’re not rushed and they can ask all the questions they have,” said Mark Batievsky, the director of retail operations. “We’re going to be rolling out an express store adjacent to all our stores for non-first-time patients because we want them not to have to wait.”

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.