TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Marijuana could be coming to a Circle K gas station near you, but only if you have a valid Florida medical marijuana card.
Green Thumb Industries, a Chicago-based cannabis company, announced its new partnership with one of the nation’s largest convenience store chains, Circle K, on Wednesday. The company said it will begin leasing space from ten of Circle K’s 600 Florida locations to test out the concept in 2023.
The “RISE Express” stores – named after the company’s RISE dispensary chain – will have a separate entrance from the convenience store and feature smokable “flower”, pre-rolled joints, gummies and vapes.
“Convenience is a strong channel in retail, and people want more access to cannabis,” Green Thumb Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ben Kovler said in a news release. “The new RISE Express model is a huge step forward in making it easier and more efficient for patients to purchase high-quality cannabis as part of their everyday routine.”
The products sold in Circle K stores will come from a new 28-acre cultivation facility in Ocala, which Green Thumb said should open by the end of this year. The company currently operates a cultivation facility in Homestead and medical cannabis shops in Pinellas Park, Bonita Springs, Deerfield Beach, Hallandale Beach, Kendall, Oviedo and West Palm Beach.
Legal cannabis products like CBD and Delta-8 are already sold at some gas stations and smoke shops in Florida, but they do not have the same psychoactive components as medical marijuana, and they do not have to follow the same state regulations and testing.
However, not everyone thinks dispensaries next to convenience stores are a good idea.
“I was shocked when I first heard about it,” said Kevin Sabet. “I was really surprised.”
Sabet is the CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, a political organization opposed to marijuana legalization and commercialization.
“The idea that we want to make it easier for a 22-year-old with a headache, who has a medical card, to get marijuana while they’re filling up on gas and about to drive really makes no sense,” said Sabet.
He said SAM plans on appealing the business decision to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office and the federal government.
“I was really surprised they would even entertain the idea that it would be a good idea to, while someone is on the road, essentially encourage stoned driving,” Sabet said.