BRADENTON — A line of a few people prior to Trulieve’s downtown Bradenton medical marijuana store opening on Tuesday swelled quickly as dozens of patients filled to capacity the newly remodeled building at 1103 14th St. W.

Miguel Couvertier, an Air Force veteran, waited patiently for his name to be called. The Polk County resident drove to Bradenton because it was a shorter distance to where he normally get his medicine and to take advantage of Trulieve’s opening day offer of 25 percent off prices.

“It helps a lot,” Couvertier said. “We voted for this to get away from the opioids that are prescribed by doctors and the (Department of Veterans Affairs). There were no alternatives before now and now we have alternatives we know work for us.”

Trulieve, a Tallahassee-based medical marijuana company, purchased the building prior to voter approval in November of Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in Florida. There were some laws already in place prior, but the election opened the door for its use to address many other medical needs.

“It allows us to be able to serve a much larger range of patients,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers.

For now, most of the product is made into an oil and is divided into three strains. Rivers said the Sativa line is more uplifting and keeps patients functioning at work, while the Indica line is more relaxing, helping patients to sleep, “which very often is important to their healing process,” Rivers said.

Rivers compared the two strains to taking Dayquil and Nyquil in their design to treat the same symptoms, but they react to the patients in a different way. The Hybrid strain, she said, is the combination of the two and is the most popular.

“It works really well for pain management but keeps the patient functioning,” she said.

Couvertier said it’s been a long, frustrating wait since voters approved the use of medical marijuana in Florida.

“I’m mad, to tell you the truth,” he said. “The government process moves differently than what we voted for and has made things more difficult.”

Couvertier, like many other medical marijuana patients, is equally frustrated at the Florida Legislature’s decision to ban smokeable marijuana.

“It’s disappointing because these products are more expensive than what a flower-based product would be,” he said. “Leaving smokeable marijuana on the black market makes no sense. This isn’t what we voted for.”

Rivers said most of the patients she talks with would prefer the plant-based product to smoke, “as a method of delivery, but the Legislature made it clear that it’s not something they are interested in for now.”

However, Rivers said the Legislature is working toward a goal of allowing medical marijuana in vapor form as long as it is kept in a sealed container.

Attorney John Morgan, of Morgan and Morgan, spent millions of his own money to begin the medical marijuana campaign in Florida. Morgan filed suit against the Legislature in July to force the state to reverse its decision to ban smoking medical marijuana.

Trulieve filed permits to open in Bradenton prior to the city enacting a moratorium on medical marijuana facilities, which expires next month. The company would not be affected by whatever the city decides in the future.

Palmetto’s moratorium expired a few weeks ago and the city decided not to allow dispensaries within city limits since Manatee County voted to approve them.

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