Medical Marijuana Operator With First Coast Locations Gets State OK To Expand

Aug 9, 2019

State health officials have agreed to allow a second Florida medical marijuana operator to exceed a statutory limit on storefronts.

The cap on dispensaries, now set at 35 for each operator, was included in a 2017 state law carrying out a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Health officials on Monday agreed to allow Alpha Foliage, which operates as Surterra, to open six more dispensaries.

Currently Surterra has a Jacksonville location at 537 Park Street and one in Orange Park at 80 Blanding Boulevard.

The company sued after the Department of Health allowed a competitor, Trulieve, to exceed the statutory cap. Surterra attorneys asked the state to interpret the law consistent with the way it did for Trulieve.

Trulieve also operates on the First Coast with a Jacksonville dispensary at 6529 Beach Boulevard and in Fernandina Beach at 474285 E. State Road.

The 2017 law “operates prospectively and not retroactively,” health officials wrote Monday in Surterra’s final order. “Therefore, the initial six approved dispensary locations are considered to be grandfathered under this section,” Michelle Tallent, the health department’s deputy secretary for operations, wrote.

Surterra operates 29 locations statewide, according to its website, and has additional locations pending approval.

Trulieve successfully sued the state in Leon County circuit court arguing that the restriction on the number of treatment centers “arbitrarily impairs product availability and safety” and “unfairly penalizes” pot providers.

- WJCT's Bill Bortzfield contributed to this report