Polk County now has four medical marijuana dispensaries, and two are operated by the same company, Surterra Wellness.
The Atlanta-based Surterra held a grand opening Thursday for its medical marijuana treatment center at 514 Cypress Gardens Blvd. in Winter Haven. The company opened a dispensary in Lakeland last November.
Surterra Wellness Associate Director Kimberly Hawkes said Winter Haven Mayor-Pro Tem Nathaniel Birdsong and City Commissioners James “JP” Powell and William J. Twyford attended Thursday’s grand opening, along with representatives from the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.
“We found such wonderful homes in Orlando and Lakeland, and the community of Winter Haven was in need of cannabis education and we’re really happy to be a good Winter Haven neighbor,” Hawkes said. “Just like our Lakeland location, everybody was extraordinarily welcoming to us.”
Hawkes said the Winter Haven center has eight employees.
Liberty Health Sciences opened a dispensary in Winter Haven last October. The other Polk County cannabis outlet — the first to open here — is operated by Curaleaf in Lakeland.
Surterra also owns a marijuana cultivation facility in Lakeland, having bought a 32-acre nursery earlier this year. Another company, GrowHealthy, operates a cannabis production plant in Lake Wales.
Surterra owns 26 dispensaries in Florida, Hawkes said. The company also has medical marijuana operations in Texas, Nevada and Massachusetts.
Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2016 allowing the use of cannabis-derived products to treat symptoms of a wide range of conditions, including cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain. A Florida resident must receive a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued identification card before buying products from a dispensary.
More than 320,000 Floridians have received state ID cards.
The Surterra “wellness center” offers cannabis-based products in various forms — vaporizers, tinctures, concentrated oils, transdermal patches, topical lotions and softgels. Surterra sells pre-rolled, “smokable” joints at some locations but not in Winter Haven.
Surterra is also the global distributor for singer Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer brand of vaporizer pens.
Hawkes said Surterra is unique in allowing even those without patient cards to enter its dispensaries and talk to employees.
“We’re very proud of that,” Hawkes said. “If you really want to get down to our philosophy on reaching communities like Winter Haven, it comes down to increasing that patient access and increasing cannabis education for folks who would not otherwise know where to go.”