BRADENTON, Fla. - A new medical marijuana dispensary is now open in Manatee County despite an ongoing moratorium in the municipality.
The Trulieve store at 1103 14th Street W. in Bradenton was packed with people in their waiting room this morning, many attracted by the 25%-off "Grand Opening" sale, as well as the benefit of having the store much closer to their home.
"It's awesome and we're so thrilled to be here in Bradenton," says Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. "We have been delivering to patients in this area since July of last year so that's one of the reasons we knew this area would be a really busy location for us. And the patient enthusiasm has been fantastic."
Rivers says the Bradenton store actually delayed their delayed their official "grand opening" event because of Hurricane Irma, opening last Thursday just for one day to serve the patients that were counting on them to open that day for their medication.
Despite that "soft open," there was still a crowd at the new Bradenton location, which is the only such kind of dispensary south of the Tampa Bay. Patients in the area had been driving up to Clearwater or Tampa.
These Trulieve locations, the only company to open legal dispensaries in the Tampa Bay Area, were approved before local municipalities began temporarily banning them. City and county offiicals were concerned about too many dispensaries popping up before zoning rules could be written, and before the state legislature had decided rules for the Amendment passed by the public during the last election.
Many of the moratoriums are due to expire by the end of 2017, which will leave cities like Bradenton and Tampa with a choice to make: allow any dispensaries in, or ban dispensaries altogether.
Rivers hopes that by being good neighbors and members of the community, they will not face further hurdles.
"By setting that example we're hoping that over time that more and more communities will see that it's something that's a positive for their citizens," says Rivers to ABC Action News.