Number of medical marijuana dispensaries open in Bonita Springs expected to grow
Curaleaf medical marijuana dispensary opened its doors in Bonita Springs on Thursday, January 17. Alex Driehaus, Naples Daily News
Tuesday’s opening of Trulieve in Bonita Springs marks the third medical marijuana dispensary to debut within city limits — and four more are on the way.
Trulieve joins Curaleaf and Surterra Wellness Center in the rapidly growing dispensary market in south Lee County.
Bonita Springs opened its doors to dispensaries in March 2018, and companies have scrambled to get a foothold in the area.
“This is one of our most successful locations,” said Vinit Patel, regional dispensary operations manager of Curaleaf. “This is a relatively affluent area with many people searching for medicinal cannabis.”
The Curaleaf location on Bonita Beach Road near Imperial Parkway has been open for about three months. It was the first dispensary open in the city and quickly gained a customer base, Curaleaf said.
Competition for local business will increase as more dispensaries open, but Patel said there are plenty of customers in need of medication to support several dispensaries.
The medical marijuana patients Collier County has to travel north to Bonita Springs, which adds to the dispensary demand in south Lee County.
Wayne Hasson, a Naples resident with stage 4 cancer, said he uses marijuana to ease his continuous pain. Before the Bonita Springs dispensaries opened, the nearest location available for him to pick up his medication was South Fort Myers, Hasson said.
“It used to take 1-and-a-half hours to get my medicine,” he said. “Now, it’s a half-hour trip.”
Collier County commissioners banned medical marijuana dispensaries, making Bonita Springs the closest place companies can get to Naples. Two dispensaries are on Bonita Beach Road and another is on U.S. 41 less than a half mile from the county line.
Some patients cannot make the trip to Bonita Springs, and medical cannabis delivery services come in to help them.
Curaleaf’s Bonita location is a delivery center and serves all of Collier County. Other dispensaries have similar services.
Bonita Springs was the first Lee County city to approve dispensaries in a narrow 4-3 vote a year ago. Councilor Fred Forbes voted against dispensaries but said the new businesses haven’t caused any problems.
“It looks like (dispensaries) have not adversely affected the community,” Forbes said. “They’re obviously doing good business.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis approved smokable marijuana flowers last month, and dispensaries are stocking the shelves with cannabis buds and pre-rolled marijuana joints.
Dispensaries might smell a little more of marijuana now, but Councilor Mike Gibson said most residents won't notice these new businesses.
“I don’t think the average person knows where they are or sees any kind of effect, adverse or otherwise, right now,” Gibson said. “They’re operated like a doctor’s office or pharmacy more than anything.”
A continuing stereotype around marijuana in some areas partially led to the slim vote, Gibson said.
“Everybody gets something in their head,” he said. “Emotions get too high and they don’t get the bigger picture. When they see what it really is, it’s just another business in (Bonita Springs).”
The same stereotype keeps medical marijuana patients worried about revealing their cannabis use.
A constant stream of people shuffled through the Curaleaf dispensary doors Tuesday afternoon. Several people, including financial advisors and construction workers, refused to speak about their medicinal marijuana use because they said they were concerned about facing repercussions at work.
Hasson said medicinal marijuana has had a positive impact on his life.
“This suppresses the pain of an old (U.S. Marine Corps veteran),” Hasson said.